We Met with Thames Water’s CEO. Here’s What Happened

Many thanks to Hina Bokhari from the London Assembly, for arranging for Save Our Lands and River to meet Cathryn Ross, interim Co-CEO of Thames Water.  We were also joined by Munira Wilson MP (Twickenham) and Cllr Alex Ehmann.

This meeting topic was Thames Water’s proposed Teddington Direct River Abstraction (TDRA) scheme.

The meeting was appropriately held at the Mogden Sewage Treatment Works. Mogden is the third largest such operation in the UK and will be the source of the treated sewage to be sent into the River Thames if the TDRA scheme proceeds.

Indeed, one of the key points we sought to make in the meeting was that this TDRA scheme is a barely disguised sewage disposal scheme. In Thames Water’s proposals, around 2.5 times as much treated sewage would be tipped into the River Thames as water abstracted (taken out) from the River.

Representatives of the Save Our Lands and River campaign met the CEO of Thames Water at the Mogden Sewage Works.
Representatives of the Save Our Lands and River campaign met the CEO of Thames Water at the Mogden Sewage Works.

Cathryn Ross and her team listened to our presentation, which covered the breadth and depth of community concerns about the TDRA scheme, a scheme that fails the test of being a sensible drought resilience scheme, despite being preferred by Thames Water over 2,400 other considered schemes.

The key points we sought to make in the meeting:

  • No social impact work has been completed to date;
  • The scheme’s environmental impact on both land and water are not known;
  • TDRA is a river water abstraction scheme. But in other parts of the Thames Water network, abstractions are being reduced because of the damage such schemes cause to the environment.
  • Dubious customer research — we highlighted the ‘public information events’ that focused only on locations of shafts and pipes.  They only served to reinforce how misaligned their process of community engagement has become.

The position of Save Our Lands and River is that many better alternatives have been apparently ignored or not properly assessed. We again encouraged Thames Water to consider alternative less damaging drought resilience schemes.

To date, despite already having spent millions of (your) pounds on this TDRA scheme, Thames Water has still not proved its case. They have not provided the information and material you need to make fair and reasonable judgements. 

We learned something new in the meeting

Thames Water explained that they had been ‘caught out’ by the 2022 drought and its impact on the River Thames.

In Kingston, Thames Water has access to the longest history (100 years!) of data and information on river flow anywhere along the river. Despite this, Thames Water was still ‘caught out’ by the 2022 drought.  The drought caused abnormal flow levels. Yet, astoundingly, they still believe abstracting (removing) water in this area in a drought is a sensible plan. Logic dictates the absolute opposite is true. 

What we asked of Thames Water

We made two requests to Cathryn Ross, both of which she agreed to.

We asked that Thames Water works with us as community representatives and go through:

  1. Exactly what best value means on the schemes — relative weightings and judgements made; and
  2. The alternatives in detail — to look at how there might just be a better way.

Since the meeting, we’ve written to Cathryn Ross to outline how SOLAR will follow through. We trust that Thames Water will make good on their commitments to us.

This scheme has already cost millions of taxpayers’ money. Yet there still is no proof that it is worth either the money spent or the money planned to be spent in the future. 

Thames Water’s community engagement and information to date has only served to underscore that they have misjudged community sentiment completely, by focusing on shafts and pipes, and not on the profound damage this scheme will cause to the River Thames and surrounding lands.

Our presentation to Thames Water

4 thoughts on “We Met with Thames Water’s CEO. Here’s What Happened”

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