Skip to Content
Back

Calgary’s Car Washing Regulations

If it remains properly unobstructed, it saves us from the worst flooding during heavy rain and snow thaw. The storm water ends up in the rivers where people fish and swim, and where fish and plants live.

Since so much life and safety depend on the water, the City of Calgary has adopted Drainage Bylaw 37M2005 to regulate the water that enters the drainage system. It is aimed at keeping greasy substances and debris out of the system so it remains unblocked. It is also intended to keep foreign substances out of our rivers so the fish and plant life can thrive.

It affects the legality of some common car washing practices, so keep the following in mind:

Be kind to the animals and plants that share our planet, and save yourself some large fines in the process.

  • The bylaw stipulates a list of substances that may not be introduced into the storm water system. These include soap, odorous materials, greases and waste. If you wash your vehicle on your driveway or in the street, it is inevitable that soapy water and the dirt that sticks to the vehicle will run into the drainage system. This is prohibited and can incur a fine of up to $3,000 for the first offence (The City of Calgary, 2014).
  • The bylaw itself does not stipulate that it is illegal to wash your car in your driveway (The City of Calgary, 2005), but you will have to be resourceful to pull it off without falling fowl of the law. You will probably require a City-approved interceptor system, such as those used by professional establishments, to filter out grease and dirt before the water enters the system (The City of Calgary, 2007). In addition, since such filters cannot separate soap from water, you will need to wash the car with water only, or alternatively find a way of channelling the water to the waste water drain in your basement in which The City prescribes you empty your swimming pool and hot tub (The City of Calgary, 2014). If your car is unusually clean, in which case a wash seems unnecessary, you might get away with it.
  • Since most of us have neither the technical nor financial resources to implement these measures, the most sensible option is to get your car washed at a professional car wash service with an interceptor. Driving your car out of the city to wash it in an area without a drainage system will cost you much more on fuel and time.
  • The City of Calgary. (2005). Drainage Bylaw 37M2005.   Retrieved April 4, 2014, from http://www.calgary.ca/CA/city-clerks/Documents/Legislative-services/Bylaws/37m2005-Drainage.pdf?noredirect=1
  • The City of Calgary. (2007). Drainage Bylaw Brochure.   Retrieved April 4, 2014, from http://www.calgary.ca/UEP/Water/Documents/Water-Documents/drainage_bylaw_brochure.pdf
  • The City of Calgary. (2014). Bylaws Related to Drainage.   Retrieved April 4, 2014, from http://www.calgary.ca/CSPS/ABS/Pages/Bylaws-by-topic/Drainage.aspx

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.

Calgary’s Car Washing Regulations

Calgary’s storm drainage system is a network of pipes and ponds that takes storm water out of the streets and into the rivers.