Ever wonder what happens after you drop off your rental car? If the vehicle was returned to Portland International Airport, there’s a good chance that it involved a visit to the Quick Turnaround Facility, also known as the QTA. Over the last two years, this behind-the-scenes facility has been undergoing some significant changes to reduce its environmental footprint.
After you part ways with your rental car, it gets whisked off to the QTA to get cleaned up for the next customer. Any garbage or recycling is removed, the interior is vacuumed and the car gets run through a car wash.
During the busy season, thousands of rental cars could go through the car wash each day, so it’s not surprising that Port of Portland staff identified the QTA as the largest consumer of water at PDX. In one year alone, the QTA could use as much as 16.2 million gallons of water. Over the last two years, the Port and on-airport rental car companies at PDX have been working together to make modifications to the QTA to improve water conservation.
In its first phase, the Port worked with the rental car agencies to complete facility performance and maintenance improvements, saving nearly 5.6 million gallons of water per year. The success of the first phase sparked interest in exploring the feasibility of water reuse.
“In the spring of 2013 we installed a water reclaim unit at our Alamo location and saw immediate water use reduction of 50 – 70 percent,” explains Ava Joubert, Group Operations Manager for EAN Holdings LLC, which operates the Enterprise, Alamo and National Brands at PDX. “We knew that if all five car rental companies doing business on-site at PDX installed individual water reclaim units on their bays the water and cost savings could be really impactful.”
In a recently completed second phase, all the rental car agencies installed water reclamation units that reuse rinse water in the wash cycle, cutting water use in half. The potential water savings each year will be around another 5 million gallons, equal to about 7.5 Olympic-size swimming pools!
In addition to the obvious environmental benefits of conserving water, the changes also pencil out for the rental car agencies. Using less water means lower water and sewer fees, cutting operating costs in a highly competitive industry. It also helps bring new possibilities to light. “We've learned about rebate programs with the Energy Trust of Oregon and the Portland Water Bureau for efficiency projects. We have made great strides, but there is still a lot to learn. The opportunities for more water and energy savings are infinite, which is really exciting!” says Joubert.