Water shortages will impact service stations far more than any unregulated hand car wash operator, according to David Charman, chairman of the Car Wash Assocation (CWA).

Following the government’s water summit yesterday and news that much of South East England is now officially in a state of drought, David said that water shortages may threaten to change for good the way car washing is operated in England.

“There is no doubt that this huge problem could be with us for a long time,” said David. “I would urge operators to consider carefully how, in these drought conditions, they can hold onto the fantastic sales we currently enjoy.”

Speaking at the water summit at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) yesterday, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman urged water companies, businesses, and people to find ways of reducing water waste and water usage.

“Drought is already an issue this year with the South East, Anglia and other parts of the UK now officially in drought, and more areas are likely to be affected as we continue to experience a prolonged period of very low rainfall,” she said.

“It is not just the responsibility of Government, water companies and businesses to act against drought. We are asking for the help of everyone by urging them to use less water and to start now.”

At the summit the Environment Agency presented an in-depth analysis of the current drought situation and the subsequent effects on the environment. In early March the Agency will publish its latest drought prospects report, which sets out the areas that are likely to be affected by drought in spring and summer 2012.

Currently, Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, parts of Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire, and west Norfolk are still in drought. Shropshire, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, East Sussex and Kent are still affected by dry weather.

In the Anglian region groundwater levels remain exceptionally low, while soils in these areas are still not wet enough for widespread recharge to take place.

The Midlands region, Anglian region and South East region all received below average rainfall for January (79%, 74% and 66% respectively of the long term average rainfall). It has been the driest ever five-month period (September 2011 to January 2012) in Anglian region.

The driest 12 months between February and January ever saw 636mm of rain – between Feb 2011-Jan 2012 we had 774mm which is the eighth driest ever.

The CWA recommends that car wash operators without water recycling and using more than 30 litres of fresh water per wash should seriously consider investing in a recycling system. Said David: “Most wash operators will also need to configure a special drought wash programme with support from their equipment maintainer, if they are to hope to remain open for business for as long as possible during what will be a challenging period for the industry.”