Drought resilience is needed

Are there alternatives to the Teddington Direct River Abstraction Scheme? Yes.

Thames Water reviewed 2,400 alternative proposals before choosing the TDRA scheme.

Water Resources South East (WRSE) — a group of six water companies, including Thames Water, that covers South East England — used a scoring system which selected TDRA as a “best value” scheme.

Best value for whom? And how is this calculated? WSRE is refusing to show the details of what scores they have allocated to schemes, how they’ve worked the scores out, and what weighting they have given to each measure. We have requested this information.

We call on Thames Water to show their calculations that led to this being the 'best value' solution for drought-resilience.

For example, to the best of our knowledge, Thames Water has not yet conducted a proper environmental impact assessment. They have indicated they will not publish this until Spring 2024.

Thames Water has also done no work on the social and health impact of using a high public use area such as is proposed for TDRA. How can a scheme like TDRA be quantified as best value without these factors being considered?

Thames Water must commit to more transparency in a scheme that profoundly impacts our community and our shared resouces.

Potential alternatives to Thames Water's TDRA

Beckton and Mogden Reuse Plants

New proposals are available, such as Beckton Sewage Treatment Works and the Mogden Sewage Treatmment Works. Although more expensive, Beckton and Mogden would deliver four to six times more water capacity, at a higher quality.

Mogden and Beckton are state-of-the-art water reuse schemes. They are the schemes that any modern water company with a large wastewater base (like Thames Water) should be developing and expanding. They are true "re-use" schemes as they take raw sewage and turn it into water of good enough quality to pump into reservoirs such as the Lee Valley reservoirs.

These reuse schemes are a good alternative to reservoirs, the standard water storage solutions trusted for hundreds of years.

East Suffolk Transfer Agreement

Renegotiate or cancel current water transfer schemes . In particular, there is a scheme that transfers water from London’s Lee Valley Reservoirs to East Suffolk Water, which should be cancelled or at least amended to reduce transfer.

Water Saving by Customers

We believe that Thames Water are underestimating customers and their willingness to adjust behaviours to save water.

If reductions were targeted more ambitiously at 15% (vs current 7%), an additional 125mlpd could be saved — which more than counters the need for TDRA.

It has been proven all over the world that when asked, customers step up to the challenge of reducing their water usage.  

We believe with a combination of smart water meters and education alone, consumers can reduce water usage by 15%, which would address the drought resilience mandate.

More Smart Meters

According to Waterwise* 2021 report "Smart water metering and the climate emergency," installing one million smart water meters in the UK each year for the next 15 years could result in saving at least one billion litres of water a day (1,000 Mld) by the mid-2030s and we could reduce the UK's current greenhouse gas emissions by 0.5% (2.1MtCO2e). Smart Meter Readers have proven to reduce consumer usage by 11% on average.

Thames Water indicates that smart metering is the "mainstay of our demand reduction strategy." Thames Water Draft Water Resources Management Plan, 2024. Page 13.)

However, Thames Water has admitted it has failed to install a single smart water meter under a flagship £70m programme to fit hundreds of thousands of the devices to support the UK’s “green economic recovery” from Covid-19. (Thames Water has failed to install any smart meters yet in £70m green scheme, Guardian, July 2023)

We call on Thames Water to accelerate the adoption of smart meters.

*Waterwise is the leading independent voice in the UK for using water wisely, for the benefit of people and the planet.

Fix Leaks Faster

Today, Thames Water leaks 650mlpd. Every day. This TDRA scheme proposes 75mlpd, a fraction of the water lost through leaking. If Thames Water accelerates its leak prevention programme, then the savings in water losses should eat into the need for TDRA.

In June 2023, a freedom of information report indicated that Thames Water pipe leaks were at their highest level in five years. Thames Water indicated they would be unable to meet their performance targets for leakage fixes.

Leaks on Manor Circus, November 5, 2023. (Click to see video.)

Run the Beckton Desalination Plant at Capacity

The Beckton Desalinisation Plant was opened in June 2010 and cost tax-payers £250 million. At the time, Thames Water argued strongly that the plant would address London's water scarcity. Visit Acciona's website about this plant describing its "world-first technology."

However, Thames Water admitted in November 2022 that the plant had only been used on three occasions. The plant requires a deal of maintenance, and Thames Water has been unable to run it at capacity.

If it were run at capacity, the plant should produce about 150mlpd.

An aerial view of the Beckton Sewage Treatment Works, site of the desalination plant
An aerial view of the Beckton Sewage Treatment Works, site of the desalination plant

Refill Aquifers

Groundwater is stored naturally in layers of water-bearing rocks called aquifers. These are large underground layers of rock and other materials like sand and gravel, through which water can flow and be stored. In our region, chalk is the most important aquifer, but other limestones, sandstones and gravels also have a significant role. (Source: Thames Water.)

The level to which aquifers fill and are saturated varies during the year and from year to year. This groundwater level is known as the water table. If there’s not enough rainfall in winter then the aquifers are not refilled and the water table remains lower in the aquifer. (Source: Thames Water.)

Reduce Contingency Levels

In their current plan for the London Water Zone, Thames Water plans to have about 30% of its water available for use as a “buffer” to account for leaks, “headroom” and “an outage allowance”. No business should be running with 30% spare like this. Thames Water should operate more efficiently.