Retailers should be campaigning for the curbing of roadside car washing, following the announcement of drought orders last month, says independent retailer David Charman of Parkfoot Garage, who has just had a bore-hole installed on his forecourt to ensure water supply to his car washes.

"Every retailer in the country with a car wash should be arguing strenously for a ban on people washing their cars at home. It’s not the car washes that should be shut down. If you close them down, the cars will still get washed, and the same amount of water will still be used. Also, illegal car washing is affecting all our businesses. It is a big issue. The worst people are some of the borough councils that give permission for car washing in their car parks. That water is all wasted. To stop the practice would actually make a big difference to the water usage in this country."

Meanwhile, PRA director Ray Holloway believes the hosepipe ban in the south east could be good news for car wash operators.

"They should use this opportunity to promote loyalty schemes, discount offers and so on, in what is traditionally a seasonally quiet period." He said retailers could also put themselves outside the scope of any possible prohibition by installing recycling units, thereby reducing their water and effluent charges.

"Believing the cost of recycling is necessary may be difficult, but the business benefit from anticipating further measures and an order being sought by most water companies will be greatest if you act now."

The drought order announced by Sutton and East Surrey Water on May 15, was the first in England and Wales for 11 years. Ten days later Southern Water, which covers large areas of south-east England, was granted the order for Kent and Sussex. A single order has also been made for the entire Mid Kent Water area.

See News Extra page 10.