NOW, AS SOME OF YOU WILL REALISE, I’ve been around the petrol scene for quite some time. No, I wasn’t about when the guy with the red flag had to walk in front of your motor, but it is true that I remember wind-up petrol pumps and shots of Redex. One of the advantages of longevity in this trade is that you quite often get to see things second time around.
AND SO IT IS WITH THE DROUGHT, or should I say the southern drought, as they’re not exactly drowning in it in the rest of the country but, if you’re not in the M25-ish area, for the time being there’s no need to panic. Having your car wash closed down is definitely harmful to your financial health - even more so this time around given the decimation of fuel margins since last time and the resultant necessity of finding other income streams to be able to pay the milkman at the end of the month.
THE REACTION NOW IS SIMILAR TO BEFORE. A panic rush of enquiries for water reclamation schemes, combined with outrage at the millions of litres allowed to go to waste every day by the very profitable custodians of our water resources. So is installing a recycling scheme the answer to your prayers? As with everything in life, there is no simple answer.
THOSE OPERATORS WHO HAVE ALREADY invested in a total reclamation scheme will obviously be giving themselves a pat on the back for their vision and foresight. Okay so they had to invest heavily in equipment maybe years ago. Okay, so the quality of the wash may not be as good as if they used ’virgin’ water (although, in the London area, that ’virgin’ water has probably already been partially recycled 27 times before!). Okay, so they may have had to pay more for their chemicals and maintenance for the past few years. But, now they’re laughing. Now there is a veritable outbreak of gleeful rubbing of the hands.
UNDER THE CURRENT GUIDELINES, less than 23 litres a wash allows you to stay open, so these guys are in the envious position of being able to stay open while their competition is shut. But, you have to ask yourself, how long will it be before the red-top newspapers start questioning these guidelines? Supposing the drought lasts a few more months and the prospect of stand pipes looms. How can you morally defend the use of what would then be a very scarce resource just to pander to the publics’ vanity about the appearance of their motor. I know it may be our livelihood, but we’re getting into the realms of the indefensible here.
SO NOW WE HAVE TO GUESS how long the drought will last. If it lasts too long I predict you won’t be able to open - whatever your equipment. If it lasts just a short while, will the extra revenue offset all the costs you’ve incurred for so long a period? And, as an interesting side issue, when you’re open and everyone else is shut it will be obvious that you use recycled water. Not a problem when you’re the only act in town - faced with the alternative of a dirty car you’ll have the punters queuing down the street. But when the crisis is over, what then? The green lobby may have become much more powerful over the past few years, but how many of your customers will decide they no longer wish to wash their Beemer in your ’dirty’ water when the guy down the road has got clean stuff?
THE OTHER FACTOR, OF COURSE, is how often these droughts will occur? If they’re going to happen every three years maybe the balance tips in favour of recycling. Ask the global warming fraternity and you can choose any permutation you want, from Kent becoming a desert, to the whole of East Anglia being six foot under, or even both at the same time.
WHAT DID I CHOOSE? I installed the capability for a reclamation system more than 10 years ago but I haven’t needed to use it yet. Of course the government could solve the drought crisis over night. Last time around they appointed the Sports Minister as Minister of Drought and it never stopped raining.!!