Car wash operators should not panic unduly about the current drought but they should prepare, as those with water recycling should be in a much better position than those without, said Wilcomatic managing director Kevin Pay.

According to Wilcomatic, only a Temporary Use Ban has been issued by seven water authorities in the south of the country so far, which amounts to a hosepipe ban on domestic premises from April. This, said Pay, could bring new opportunities to car wash operators as many people will be deterred from washing their own cars at home when they cannot use a hosepipe.

For commercial wash operators to be affected the water authorities have to apply to the Secretary of State for a Drought Order. They have to advertise the fact that they have applied and there is a window of seven days for objections. If there are objections, a public enquiry must be held. No Drought Orders had been applied for at time of going to press.

Even if Drought Orders are approved, the water companies have to set out ’trigger levels’, based on a number of criteria, at which particular commercial activities have to be curtailed. These have to be applied in phases. Each water authority can interpret these in its own way and Southern Water, for example, has no plans to restrict commercial washing until phase three.

Said Pay: "All this means that it is likely to be at least a month before any possible commercial wash bans can be imposed, and then there may be a further delay before the particular trigger level is reached.

"It also means that there is still time but only if retailers act quickly for those who have no recycling or rainwater harvesting to install these drought lifelines; as there are likely to be exemptions to the Drought Orders for those with low or restricted mains water use."

"The Car Wash Association, of which we are a member, is in constant contact with the various authorities and is actively lobbying hard to ensure hand car washing is encapsulated fairly within any restrictive water use legislation and to set a reasonable benchmark of 30 litres of fresh water per wash to be allowed for those using water recycling."

Further information on the changing status of the water authorities’ stance on drought orders can be found on the Car Wash Association website

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