Can you still wash your car with the dryer?

Rshowers, water-repellent treatment, drying: on Friday, drivers were changed at an Eni station in Lyon. However, the prefecture has expressly prohibited car washing since Wednesday because almost the entire department is on drought alert.

“If I had known [que c’était interdit]I wouldn’t have done it, but without knowing it, I don’t think I committed a crime,” explained Robert, retired.

Washing bans have affected an increasing proportion of the 10,000 stations in France in recent years, and they have multiplied during this historically dry summer.

The only exception: Stations that recycle water in an almost closed loop are sometimes allowed to remain open. They remain extremely rare: most recycle the water in tanks before throwing it into the sewer.

In fact, most stations remain open. In Pierre-Bénite, near Lyon, a station said washing was reserved for emergency vehicles, such as ambulances. “Afterwards, I cannot forbid people from coming […]I’m not a policeman,” says the station manager, Éric Marcoccia.

TotalEnergies, the sector leader with 1,000 stations, was unable to specify how many of those were closed and the situation was “evolving”. But a spokeswoman stressed that they had all been made aware of the prefecture’s decrees.

Ban with variable geography

There is a “cacophony” at the level of the prefectures, with different measures depending on the departments, explains Jean-Luc Cottet, operator of car washes in the Paris region and representative of the sector at Mobilians, which brings together automotive professionals.

At the entrance to Auxerre (Yonne), Jean-Claude, 50, passes his Renault Mégane between the rollers of a total station. “At least we know we’re going right into the wall!” And we, consumers, are being asked to make an effort. It is also difficult to know if the station has a recycling system.

About 40 kilometers further south in the same department, the Auchan d’Avallon hypermarket has closed its car wash, while the Cousin, the small river that crosses the town, is at its lowest. According to its director, the owner of the establishment plans to establish a water recycling system that will remain open for the coming summers.

“It is a bit ambiguous as a situation and not pleasant for the operators. People are being told not to wash their vehicles anymore,” laments Mr Cottet, who fears the stations will have to close several months of the year.

In total, 0.6% of the water consumed in France is used for car washing, a third of which is at stations, with an average of six washes per wash. car per year. A high-pressure jet rinse consumes an average of 60 liters of water, or a very long shower. A portal uses 120 liters and a washing tunnel 160 litres.

Collect dirty water

“If they are prevented from going to the stations, the car addicts wash them at home. And it’s polluting and water-consuming,” argues Mr Cottet.

It is forbidden to wash your car with plenty of water on the public highway, with a fine of 450 euros. In his yard or garden he is restricted, with the duty to collect dirty water.

A total of 5,650 controls have been carried out to enforce drought-related measures since the beginning of summer, all sectors together with 163 fines and about twenty criminal cases, according to the Ministry of Ecological Transformation. And all police, municipal and gendarmerie services are empowered to crack down.

However, Jean-Luc Cottet insists on the “ecological” role of the washing stations, which each year collect 48,000 tons of sludge, filled with toxic residues. According to him, the profession is adapting, especially in the face of competition from dry cleaning: this, much more expensive, uses chemicals on dozens of napkins, which must then be washed … with water.

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