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Sacramento Stormwater Quality Partnership
River-Friendly Carwash Program



The Facts about the River-Friendly Fundraiser Carwash Program

  • What Is the River-Friendly Fundraiser Carwash Program? Open or Close

    The River-Friendly Fundraiser Carwash program was developed by the Sacramento Stormwater Quality Partnership to help facilitate successful fundraiser carwashes while protecting local creeks and rivers from pollution that can be carried in wastewater from carwashing activities.

    The River-Friendly Fundraiser Carwash Program:

    • Provides community outreach and education about the potential harmful effects caused by wastewater discharge from traditional fundraiser carwashes

    • Promotes river-friendly carwashing solutions that help solve pollution problems while also supporting the activities of fundraising groups

    • Connects fundraising groups with River-Friendly Fundraiser Carwash Partners that can help them hold River-Friendly Fundraiser Carwashes, and

    • Helps keep our creeks and rivers healthy and pollution free!

    Please Note:

    The River-Friendly Fundraiser Carwash program is limited to businesses located within the boundaries of Sacramento County and its incorporated cities due to funding constraints. However, we value the support and dedication of any business in preventing stormwater pollution. Therefore, businesses which are outside our jurisdictional boundaries that are eligible to participate in our program may apply for special courtesy listing as an "Out Of County Program Affiliate."

  • How Can a Fundraiser Carwash Pollute Our Creeks & Rivers? Open or Close

    Fundraiser carwashes can pollute our creeks and rivers because the soapy wastewater from a carwash—often carrying dirt, grease, detergents, and other pollutants—typically flows along a parking lot or other paved surface into the storm drain system. From there, it flows untreated to our creeks and rivers where it can harm fish and other aquatic life.

    All by itself, your carwash may not seem to be contributing much pollution to our local waterways. But collectively, wastewater from fundraiser carwashes throughout the community can contribute significant amounts of harmful pollutants to our creeks and rivers.

  • Differences between the Storm Drain & Sanitary Sewer Systems Open or Close

    The storm drain system exists to prevent localized flooding by directly transporting excess stormwater runoff (rain that doesn’t soak into the ground) and irrigation water from neighborhoods and streets to local creeks and rivers.

    The storm drain system includes underground pipes, as well as surface features such as drain inlets, streets, gutters, roadside ditches, and detention basins. Virtually all outdoor drains lead to the storm drain system!

    The water entering the storm drain system is not treated to remove pollutants. Stormwater flows through the storm drain system to our local waterways. Any pollutants that enter the storm drain system end up in our creeks and rivers where they can harm the environment.

    In contrast, the sanitary sewer system is designed to carry wastewater from residential, commercial and industrial sources to a treatment plant where pollutants are removed before treated water is discharged.

    Commercial carwash facilities dispose of their wastewater to the sanitary sewer system—that’s why we encourage fundraising groups to consider partnering with a commercial carwash for their fundraising events!

  • Are Fundraiser Carwash Activities Prohibited? Open or Close

    Fundraiser carwash activities are not prohibited.

    However, discharges of wastewater and/or other pollutants associated with fundraiser carwashes to the storm drain system are prohibited by state and local regulations that do not allow discharges of pollutants to the storm drain system.

    Therefore, fundraiser carwash activities must be conducted in a manner that prevents pollutant discharges to the storm drain system.

  • What Is a River-Friendly Fundraiser Carwash? Open or Close

    A River-Friendly Fundraiser Carwash is one that prevents wastewater discharges to the storm drain system and therefore doesn’t contribute to pollution in our community’s creeks, rivers and waterways.

    A River-Friendly Fundraiser Carwash keeps wastewater out of the storm drain system by diverting the wastewater to the sanitary sewer system or to a landscaped area where it will not pollute our creeks, rivers and waterways. It’s that simple!

  • How a Fundraiser Organization Can Hold a River-Friendly Fundraiser Carwash Open or Close

    A River-Friendly Fundraiser Carwash protects our creeks and rivers by not allowing wastewater to enter the storm drain system.

    You can have a River-Friendly Fundraiser Carwash by:

    • Working with a commercial carwash to host your fundraiser event at its facility. This option will ensure proper disposal of your wastewater to the sanitary sewer system with no effort on your part, conserves water, and may increase your potential profit. Here is our current list of Commercial Carwash River-Friendly Fundraiser Carwash Partners with whom you may choose to partner

    • Collaborating with a park, school or school district that can accommodate River-Friendly Fundraiser Carwashes at their site. Here is our list of Park/School/School District River-Friendly Fundraiser Carwash Partners.

    • Teaming with a business, park or other site that works with you to implement River-Friendly Fundraiser Carwash measures to properly manage and dispose of your wastewater. Click here to find the complete current list of River-Friendly Fundraiser Carwash Partners that you may choose to work with for your fundraiser event

    • Following these guidelines when partnering with a commercial carwash facility is not feasible for your group:

      Before the Carwash:

      • Hold a meeting with all participants to explain proper procedures that must be followed during the carwash

      • Choose a location where proper wastewater management can be feasibly practiced

      • Consider how carwash wastewater will be managed during the fundraiser carwash event. There are two options:
        • You may discharge the wastewater to landscaping, gravel or soil provided that there is enough surface area to completely absorb all the wastewater without creating runoff, it does not produce nuisance conditions (such as mosquito breeding grounds or excessive pooling), and you have the property owner’s permission.

        • Contain, collect and properly dispose of all carwash wastewater. Refer to the “Guidelines for Manually Diverting Outdoor Wastewater to the Sanitary Sewer” booklet in our Publications section for detailed information on wastewater containment, collection and disposal options.

      • Remove all trash and debris from the carwash area.

      During the Carwash:

      • Use products labeled "non-toxic", "phosphate free", and "biodegradable". These products can be purchased at most large retail outlets. Please note, however, that even biodegradable and non-toxic soaps are harmful to aquatic life and water quality, and must be kept out of the storm drain system.

      • Do not use acid-based wheel cleaners or engine degreasers

      • Use a bucket of soapy water to re-soap rags or sponges throughout the carwash rather than adding more soap directly to rags or sponges

      • Wring sponges and rags into buckets, not onto the ground

      • Conserve water and minimize the amount of wastewater you must manage by using a spray nozzle with an automatic shut off

      • Always empty buckets of wastewater into the sanitary sewer system via sinks, toilets, or sanitary sewer clean-out or onto landscaped areas where the wastewater can be absorbed.

      After the Carwash:

      • Clean up the site. Have a volunteer walk the perimeter of the site to pick up trash and dispose of it properly

    Still have questions? Call (916) 808-4H20

  • Are Fundraiser Carwash Activities Prohibited? Open or Close