The impending drought could spell a difficult summer for sites with car wash facilities. Hose pipe bans are now in force over most of the south east and some water companies have already applied for further restrictions, which could put a halt to what is a valuable profit-driver.

An Environment Agency spokesperson said that three water companies had applied for extra non-essential use restrictions, which could potentially affect car washing facilities. Southern Water confirmed that it is one of these companies and is awaiting a decision from Defra.

A spokesperson said: "If car washing facilities don’t use recycled water then restrictions could potentially affect them. If such restrictions do come into force we will publicise them so that retailers know what their obligations are."

Istobal’s Dave Lindon said that should a drought order be approved then car washes with a water reclaim system would be issued a certificate allowing them to remain open. "The percentage of reclaim has varied for different water companies in the past," he said. "Some will let you operate with a partial reclaim, which is 50-60%, others will want total reclaim, which is 95%."

However, Kent-based retailer David Charman said he was making his own back-up plans.

"Without my car wash business it will be very difficult to make a profit and survive," he said. " I’m fully expecting a restriction, however, water recycling is expensive and it would affect our wash quality."