WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Washing your car can have various negative effects on the environment. Many soaps commonly used to in the process of cleaning your car have toxins that can hurt fish and other animals that live in and use the water. If you clean your car in your driveway, the chemicals from the soap and with other harmful components can get washed into storm drains that feed directly into our rivers, lakes, and streams. In order to protect our waterways, there are many steps you can take to minimize the negative environmental impacts of washing your car.
One way we can help to protect our waterways from the harmful impacts the chemicals found in soaps is by being aware of these harmful chemicals. Buying soaps that limit or even restrain from using phosphates as one of their main ingredients can help keep our waterways in top shape. An excess of phosphates in our waterways can lead to a process called eutrophication. Eutrophication is the process of where a waterway becomes overly enriched with nutrients. This excess of nutrients then leads to massive algae blooms and increased plant growth. As the algae and plants begin to decompose in the water, they use up masses of dissolved oxygen that is in the water. Dissolved oxygen levels are one of the main components scientists look at when determining the quality of water. The lower the dissolved oxygen content in the waterway, the lower the water quality is in that specific waterway. In many cases, the decomposition process that leads to such low dissolved oxygen levels that fish and other organisms die because the waterway can no longer support significant life.
Another way to help prevent the negative impacts of car washes while keeping your car clean is by using commercial car washes. In many states, commercial car washes are mandated to use specific components that use less water. The less water you use, the less likely it is that the excess water ends up in our rivers, lakes, and streams. In addition to using less water than washing your car at home, many states require that commercial car washes have a process that takes out some of the harmful chemicals or even recycle the water before discharging it. These small regulations can make a big difference when it comes to the harmful chemicals that run into our waterways from washing our cars.
Protecting our waterways is one of the biggest challenges we face in our society today. By being conscious of the components and chemicals used in the soaps used to wash our cars, we can help to prevent the degradation of our waterways. Although it may cost a few extra dollars, using commercial car washes is just another way you can help ensure that our waterways stay healthy and clean for generations to come. Just remember that we can all do our part to protect Wisconsin’s waterways.