This year has started well for the car wash industry the very cold weather and snow always stimulates tremendous demand to clear the salt and grit from every part of the car. However, the dark clouds are gathering (or not!) as the extremely dry weather last year has caused our rivers, reservoirs and aquifers to dry up. As I write, Water Authorities are seeking ministerial approval for Drought Orders. Widespread bans on water usage seem inevitable throughout much of England this summer, and the CWA plans to mitigate the impact on the car wash industry.

The CWA has been consulting with Defra and Water Authorities on their drought plans to ensure that a fair and consistent approach is taken with regard to agreeing the reduced amount of water that should be used for washing a vehicle. We have been trying to make sure there is a level playing field for all car wash businesses at this difficult time and have recommended that exemptions be granted from all but the last stage of the proposed ’Temporary Use Ban’ for responsible businesses. If the last stage is implemented the water shortage would be so severe that no car washing should be allowed.

Fortunately, some Water Authorities recognise that an indiscriminate ban on commercial car washing would be detrimental and have already made provisions in their plans. At the core of this will be a requirement for all commercial car washers to severely restrict their water consumption and also be able to demonstrate exactly how much fresh water is used per wash.

Businesses that have invested in water recycling should be capable of operating within these restrictions. This may require some simple modifications to the equipment (nozzle sizes) and car wash programmes. The CWA is lobbying for an agreed fresh water usage of not less than 30 litres per wash. Businesses should be expected to prove this reduced usage by water meter readings and proof of wash numbers.

If every cloud has a silver lining, it is that washing cars with a hosepipe at home will not be allowed, so marketed correctly, the Drought Orders can be an opportunity to show how green our industry can be. But this huge problem could be with us for a long time and may threaten to change for good the way car washing is operated in England.