After recent news that the River Thames was sparking concerns with rising raw sewage overflows going directly into the water, another story bobs to the (rather murky) surface of a petition that has gathered more than 13k signatures to stop Thames Water from turning river water polluted with sewage into drinking water.
The petition was created by Fiona Jones and is a call to stop the proposed abstraction plant at Teddington Weir, in the south-west of London and prevent the water company from releasing treated sewage into the river. The abstraction scheme seems to not only involve the malodorous but a lot of watery to-ing and fro-ing.
It involves draining more than 70 million litres of water daily from the Thames a little upstream of the weir at Teddington and transferring it via an existing underground tunnel to north London’s Lee Valley Reservoir, 21.5 miles away, to be replaced with treated effluent (that’s sewage, folks) from the Mogden sewage works, which would then be transported more than nine miles through a new pipeline, back to Teddington. Keeping up so far?
As well as the implications for humans, there are fears that the scheme will have a profound impact on local wildlife, because of the potential impact on the biodiversity of the river. The scheme was rejected back in 2019 by the Environment Agency (EA), for that very reason. The 2023 version of the proposal shows ‘substantial improvements’ according to the Environment Agency but it still has reservations about the impact on the environment and long-term viability, perhaps because Thames Water was awarded just two stars (out of five) by the Environment Agency in 2021 for record sewage discharge and pollution to the Thames. The EA wants Thames Water to focus on fixing leaks as its first priority.
So, why is Thames Water even proposing this? Well, our ever-growing demand for water is one answer. The company estimates it will need an extra 1 billion litres of water a day for customers by 2075, and freshwater is in ever-shorter supply as climate change results in a greater number of droughts. It insists that fixing leaks is part of that plan. But maybe we all need to take responsibility for our lengthy showers and one-wear laundry washes.
It’s not all shit. London is set to get its first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Fancy a dip? London Fields is set to get a swanky new swimming pool.