Calgary's Car Washing Regulations
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Most people don't think about where the soapy water goes when they wash their vehicles after it runs down the driveway, but the reality is that it takes the path of least resistance into the city's storm system.
Calgary's storm drainage system is a network of pipes and ponds that was built to remove storm water from the streets and carry it to the rivers to prevent flooding. But, the drainage system also takes everything that Calgary residents and businesses wash down the storm drains, such as trash, pesticides, soil and chemicals - all of which end up in the rivers where plants and fish live.
In 2005, the City of Calgary has adopted Drainage Bylaw 37M2005 to regulate the system by requiring that both the public and industry manage drainage and water quality. The Bylaw applies to everyone: residents, business owners, workers in residential or commercial construction or any industry within the city of Calgary.
The Bylaw stipulates a list of substances that may not be introduced into the storm water system. These include:
- Soil, sediment or other solid matter (including yard waste such as leaves and grass clippings)
- Cooking oils and grease
- Gasoline, motor oil, transmission fluid and antifreeze
- Solvents and paints
- Water from pools and hot tubs
- Industrial waste
Any surface drainage facilities such as channels or gutters must be kept clear of debris and obstructions at all times. Otherwise, in a heavy rainstorm, blockages could cause these systems to fill with rainwater and cause flooding.
Can I wash my car on my driveway or street?
You could - provided you don’t use soap or chemical cleaners. And you must ensure that the dirty water and oil from your car does not get washed down the storm drain.
Given these restrictions, it’s probably easier and more convenient to use a commercial car wash to clean your vehicle. These facilities drain to the city’s wastewater treatment facility.
What about other water on my property?
Water often accumulates naturally on your property, such as rainwater that is captured in your eavestrough and runs through the downspout. The Bylaw requires downspouts to end at least two metres away from any sidewalk, road, park, alley, lane or surface drainage facility. This allows some of the runoff to absorb into the ground before it enters the storm system.
If you have pond water on your property or water that has accumulated in excavations during construction, you require a Drainage and Dewatering Permit before you can drain this water into the city’s storm drainage system.
Failing to adhere to Drainage bylaw could land you a fine of $75 to $10,000 and/or remedial orders.
For more information, call 311, or visit Calgary.ca/waterservices.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on August 6, 2014 and has been updated for relevancy and accuracy.
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