Complete Guide to Wash Water


Many people take their water supply for granted. Some are fortunate enough to live where they seem to have a virtually unlimited water supply. Given that water covers most of the Earth, it might appear that we’ll never run out of a clean and dependable water supply. On a perfect Earth, water sanitation would not be a problem.

The truth is somewhat different. According to the United States Geological Survey, nearly 97 percent of the Earth’s water supply is saline or salty. It’s non-potable and unfit for human consumption or general utility use. Two percent is frozen as ice. That means only one percent of available water is fresh and useful to us. Freshwater can be in the form of goods like drinking and irrigation water or as a service for generating hydroelectricity, supplying recreation or being available as wash water for equipment.

As the Earth’s human population grows, there’s an ever-increasing demand for purified fresh water. With a high demand comes a dwindling supply. That presents a challenge to use our water resources wisely, especially in how we use wash water. Recycling wash water is a top conservation method, and it protects our precious resource for ourselves and future generations. Now, more than ever, we rely on water filtration technology.

What Is Wash Water?

Wash water is any water used to clean or wash materials. That can be anything from the water you use in your shower to the water you wash your car with. It also applies to the huge amount of water consumed in the commercial and industrial equipment washing industry.

Washing commercial equipment such as heavy machinery or golf course management vehicles requires a lot of water. Fortunately, much of the commercial wash water consumed on a daily basis can be recycled. Wash water treatment is contained, cleaned to a “gray” water state and reused on a continual cycle. Recycled wash water never enters the environment’s water table and does not contribute to pollution problems.

“Gray” wash water refers to supplies that are unsuitable for human consumption as “potable” water. However, recycled gray water is perfectly suited for washing equipment and equipment parts wash stations found across the nation and around the world. Advanced technology now allows for dependable water treatment processes at an affordable cost.

Today, it can be much more economical to recycle wash water that continuously runs through fresh supplies. It’s also more ethical and responsible for the environment to reuse wash water rather than waste it. Collecting wash water, treating it and recycling it over and over is simply the right thing to do.

How Is Waste Water Created?

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Practically every household and business in the country creates some form of wastewater. Common wastewater comes from cooking, cleaning, toilet and hygiene activities, and this generates massive water volumes daily. Most of those activities are unavoidable, and the by-products are routinely sent to civic treatment systems or into rural disposals.

The biggest wash water consumers are commercial and industrial businesses that need a large and reliable water supply for equipment upkeep. However, these consumers have control over their water supply and can invest in washing stations that contain, treat and repeatedly recycle a single water supply. Here are examples of large-scale wash water creators:

  • Golf Course Maintenance
  • Commercial Car Washes
  • Heavy Equipment Operators
  • Auto Parts Recyclers
  • Soil and Ground Water Remediation Professionals
  • Oil and Gas Industry
  • Mines and Mining Equipment Services
  • Equipment Rental Companies
  • Food Processors and Warehousing
  • Military Fleet Operations

The list of wash water generators goes on and on. There are different washing requirements in various situations, but these water consumers all have one thing in common. They’re able to collect, contain and recycle their wash water in equipment washing stations.

How Is Waste Water Collected?

Equipment washing stations work in one of two ways — open-loop or closed-loop.

The open-loop method is where wash water escapes down the drain, into the storm sewer and onward to its natural destination. With an open-loop system, every contaminant goes with the water. That includes detergents, grease, oil, dirt and chemicals.

Responsible equipment wash stations use a closed-loop system. That means all water used during the washing process stays trapped in a physical containment pad or rack. No polluted water can escape to damage the environment or run afoul of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) water regulations.

Closed-loop systems contain wastewater and then treat it to remove solid matter and pollutants. Treatment also reduces fine particulates that contribute to turbidity in the water. Turbidity refers to suspended sediments that give water its haze or cloudiness.

Wash water collected or reclaimed in a closed-loop pad or rack goes into a drain then immediately through a filtration system. Contaminated wastewater gets biologically treated to remove grime and gunk before being re-pressurized and returned to washing service within the closed loop. This allows using the same water supply or volume repeatedly and not allowing it to escape into the open environment.

Why Reuse Wash Water?

There are many reasons to reuse wash water. Ethically, reclaiming wash water is a sound and responsible move. Everyone has a moral obligation to conserve water and reduce our environmental impact. That’s especially important for businesses that consume large water volumes for cleaning and servicing equipment.

Economics is another good reason to reclaim, treat and reuse wash water. Water can be expensive when supplied by a metered system, and recycling wastewater significantly reduces water bills. That adds to a businesses’ bottom line, making the return on investment in wastewater treatment systems profitable in short order.

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Reducing or eliminating pollutants is highly ethical and thoroughly responsible. Preventing wash water pollutants is also economically wise, considering the many federal, state and local regulations governing water use and waste discharge. Legally, a business can suffer massive fines for water and soil pollution. These are a few of the laws regulating water pollution, and they’re good reasons to recycle wash water in a closed-loop containment system:

  • Clean Water Act (CWA)
  • Comprehensive, Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA)
  • Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)
  • Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR)
  • Oil Pollution Act (OPA)
  • Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)
  • Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)
  • Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA)

These comprehensive and extensive laws regulate all forms of chemical, biological, toxin and radiological impurities than can pollute any part of the environment’s water supply. It just makes good sense to reuse wash water and avoid conflict with environmental enforcement agencies.

How Do You Recycle Wash Water?

The best method, by far, to recycle wash water is through a closed-loop washing system. The word “system” is often overused, but closed-loop stations do use a systematic approach to cleaning all sorts of equipment. Closed-loop systems contain numerous components that work together, or systematically, to capture, clean and recycle wash water.

A wash water containment system’s primary component is its pad or rack. This is the surrounding that equipment or their parts are placed in for washing. Wash pads or racks can be fixed in place, or they can be portable. Either way, the surrounding is leak proof and doesn’t allow any water to escape during the washing process.

Pressure washers or water cannons dispense water onto the equipment under force. Typically, this water supply contains a detergent or degreaser, and it can be either cold or hot. Contaminants break free from a surfactant action, and they fall through gravity to drains of sumps in the containment pad’s base. From there, a sump pump re-pressurizes wash water and sends it through a filtration process that removes contaminants. Cleaned water then returns to the cannon or pressure nozzle, and the cycle continues.

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At ESD Waste2Water, we lead the industry in wash water treatment and supply the latest technology in wash water recovery and treatment. Here are some of the water reclamation and recovery systems and components we offer:

  • HSMS Series: The Heavy Solids Management System is designed and built for large industrial operations. The ESD Waste2Water Models 750, 850 and 1500 handle heavy-duty cleaning jobs by effectively removing solid waste and treating the wash water.
  • GSMS Series: The Golf Solids Management System specializes in cleaning golf course equipment like mowers, tractors and carts. ESD Waste2Water Models 700 and 800 work with optional grass clipping separators to break down organic hydrocarbons and suspend solids in one compact system.
  • Two-Phase Combo Unit: This is our next generation wash water reclamation unit. It incorporates a two-phase biological treatment system that converts organics like grease, oil and fuel into carbon dioxide and water. The by-product is near-clear “gray” water.
  • Wash Pads: Wash pads are the staple workhorse of any wash water containment system. They’re available in fixed and portable models that can be set up anywhere. Generally, there’s no permit required, and our wash pads are 100-percent closed-loop containments.
  • Water Cannons: When regular pressure washers are too small for large jobs, powerful water cannons can flush heavy debris like mud off large equipment. Water cannons are integral components with ESD Waste2Water Biological Treatment Systems.
  • Sludge Reduction: The Rotary Disc Vacuum (RDV) reduces the amount of sludge material to handle and removed by a certified hauler.turbity levels

What Are Turbidity and Clarity Levels of Recycled Waste Water?

Turbidity is a common phrase heard in the water business. It refers to the water’s clarity level. Turbidity is also known as haze or sediment impurity contained in a water sample.

Turbidity is a key water quality test. It’s the measure of relative clarity affected by suspended sediments and has several recognized standards. In America, technicians measure water turbidity in Nephelometric Turbidity Units (NTU). European countries tend to use the Formazin Turbidity Unit (FTU) which is also called the Formazin Nephelometric Unit (FNU). There’s also the Jackson Turbidity Unit (JTU) measurement used in some parts of the world.

Regardless of the name, turbidity is a crucial indicator of a water sample’s state, especially when it comes to drinking water. In the U.S., the maximum allowable safe limit for potable water is 1.0 NTU. That’s a strict standard considering the World Health Organization (WHO) sets a 5.0 NTU barrier for safe water consumption.

Commercial wash water turbidity levels are more forgiving. A typical water turbidity level of 250 to 450 NTUs would appear tea-like. GSMS and HSMS wash water systems from ESD Waste2Water treat reclaimed water to the 20 to 50 NTU level. Recycled water from our wash pads appears slightly cloudy but far from looking like tea.

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Will Recycled Wash Water Have an Odor?

This question often comes up when discussing wash water recycling systems. The short answer is no. That’s because a microbubble transfusion takes place within the treatment system’s biological tank. Oxygen transfers to aerobic microbes that help ensure the internal environment contains more than 12 milligrams per liter of dissolved oxygen. In this state, aerobic microbes break down organics that cause bad smells.

When using an ESD Waste2Water closed-loop wash water containment system, there is no notable odor except what’s emitting from dirty equipment. Even compatible detergents can be odor-free. There’s no need to wear respirators or breathing protection. Reclaimed water from an ESD Waste2Water system is harmless to the lungs, eyes and skin.

How Much Waste Wash Water Is Recycled?

ESD Waste2Water systems recycle as much water as possible during their operation. It’s difficult to put this in a percentage, but it’s safe to say that no liquid water escapes into the ground or other potable water supplies. That’s an assurance you can be guaranteed when investing in ESD Waste2Water recycling systems.

Some of the treated water supply evaporates or is lost through overspray. This is to be expected, especially when working in hot and windy conditions. Some operator control and diligence are expected to make an ESD Waste2Water wash water recycling system perform at its peak.

How Can ESD Waste2Water Help?

ESD Waste2Water is a Central Florida company specializing in the design, manufacture, installation and service of wastewater management equipment. We serve customers in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia and South America. ESD Waste2Water strives to be an industry leader and help customers like you recycle wash water in an environmentally responsible and economical way.

Cutting edge technology used by ESD Waste2Water provides water reclamation operation through clever use of low-maintenance systems backed by excellent customer service. In addition to wash water recycling, we also offer soil remediation services.

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ESD Waste2Water offers top-quality products along with first-rate services. Our core focus is on environmental stewardship through water conservation and recycling. Some of the ways ESD Waste2Water can help include:

  • Design expertise: Before manufacturing starts, all our systems are professionally designed by engineers experienced in the water reclamation field. We also provide custom designed solutions.
  • Manufacturing: At ESD Waste2Water, we manufacture all our reclamation systems and components in-house. This way you’re assured of top quality control.
  • Build and install servicesPart of our specialties is setting up and installing systems as well as building them. We attend your site with our own crews and make sure your components function properly.
  • Preventive maintenanceAlthough all ESD Waste2Water wash water recycling systems are designed to be trouble-free, they do require basic maintenance. Our trained technicians will prescribe a preventive maintenance program for your system and can even perform the work for you.
  • TrainingWe don’t just build, install and maintain your water recycling system. We also train you and your employees how to operate it.

For a complete line of wash water recycling systems and components, ESD Waste2Water has it. Call us at  1-800-277-3279 to discuss how we can help design and configure the right system for your needs. You can also reach us through our online contact form.