City’s rainwater harvesting bus wash wins national award

Provincially funded project helps City save thousands of litres of water each year

Guelph, Ont., June 23, 2017—The City has won a Water’s Next award for its innovative rainwater harvesting bus wash system. The award, won in the category of Projects and Technology—Stormwater, was presented last night at a gala in Toronto.

The rainwater harvesting bus wash project was initiated in 2012 by the City’s Water Services and Guelph Transit departments, in partnership with Enviro-Stewards Inc., following an award of funding from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change’s Showcasing Water Innovation program. Since 2014, the City has saved more than 1 million litres of drinking water in the process of washing it’s buses—enough to fill four Olympic-sized swimming pools.

“We rely on a groundwater supply in Guelph, and we need to be smart about how we use water—at home, at work and at our City facilities,” said Emily Stahl, Manager of Technical Services for the City’s Water Services department. “It makes sense to match the water supply provided with the use, and naturally soft rainwater is better for washing buses, and cars at home too.”

The main goal of the project was to reduce the amount of treated drinking water needed to rinse buses. In addition to creating the rainwater harvesting bus wash system, this included replacing spray nozzles with more water efficient ones. Further benefits from this project included reducing stormwater runoff and the amount of cleaning products needed, as washing with naturally soft rainwater uses less cleaning product than washing with the City’s naturally hard drinking water.

“We did it,” noted Stahl. “We met our goals for the first phase of the project and identified challenges and opportunities to improve and expand the system.”

The City added more rainwater collection capacity in 2016, and now typically has enough rainwater stored for all final rinsing of its buses. In 2016, the City saved 548,000 litres of water by using rain water for bus washing, for a water cost savings of almost $2,000, on top of the savings achieved from the water-efficient spray nozzles (3,150,000 litres; 1.25 Olympic-sized swimming pools of water), and savings from the reduction in pumping and treatment of the drinking water supply.

“This isn’t just an award for the City; we are truly grateful to everyone who played a part in making this project come to life,” said Stahl. “This award is shared with Enviro-Stewards Inc. who helped us develop the system, and the Province for recognizing the potential of this project and providing funding to help realize it. And we are really pleased to work with our Guelph Transit team; their support for this project was invaluable.”

What Guelph learned

Guelph’s experience creating the rainwater harvesting bus wash system can benefit other Ontario communities. The main take-aways from this project are:

  • Small changes make a big difference. Installing efficient spray nozzles reduced water use alone by 25 per cent (or 1.9 million litres a year) with less than a year payback.
  • Stormwater run-off is a useful resource. Capture and use of this water source provides many benefits including lower operational costs, local flood protection and reduced strain on stormwater management systems.
  • Rain water is better than City drinking water for some uses. Rainwater is naturally soft and is a better source of water for tasks such as vehicle washing.


The City’s Water Services department has been providing drinking water to the Guelph community since 1880. Since 2006, an investment of $10.2 million in water conservation and efficiency programs and resources has resulted in over $40 million in savings from deferred infrastructure projects and related operating costs that the City would otherwise have needed to build to supply the Guelph community with drinking water.

Guelph Transit is the municipal transit system in Guelph Ontario, providing conventional and mobility service seven days a week to the local community. Service is provided on 26 routes, by a fleet of 75 conventional buses and 10 mobility vehicles.

Founded in 2000, Enviro-Stewards Inc. is an engineering firm and Certified B Corporation that helps clients increase their profits, sustain the environment, and compellingly benefit society.

The Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (then the Ministry of the Environment) introduced the Showcasing Water Innovation program as a complement to the Ontario Water Opportunities and Conservation Act and to encourage the early adoption of innovative and cost effective approaches and technologies for advancing integrated sustainable water management.

The Water’s Next national awards program, run by Water Canada, honours the achievements and ideas of individuals and companies that successfully work to change water in our country. Water Canada is the only national magazine dedicated to water quality and stewardship in Canada.


Please credit City of Guelph

Image shows a Guelph Transit Mobility bus preparing to enter the bush wash bay

A Guelph Transit mobility bus enter the bush wash

The front end of the Guelph Transit mobility bus has passed through the final rinse. The bus's headlamps are on.

A Guelph Transit mobility bus passes through the final rinse where water is supplied by collected rainfall

Five tall, white rainwater storage tanks line the wall of the bus wash bay

Rainwater storage tank at the Guelph Transit bus wash facility

For more information

Emily Stahl, Manager, Technical Services
Water Services, Environmental Services
519-822-1260 extension 3411