Fix your leaks first: Environment Agency rejects Thames Water’s drought plan
Thames Water will have to plug millions of leaks before it is allowed to scoop up water from the River Thames to tackle droughts when they arise.
The Environment Agency has told the UK’s largest water supplier it will have to repair its creaking infrastructure and tackle the loss of some 630m litres of water per day before it can resort to other measures.
The company published a range of ideas for tackling climate crisis-induced droughts across London and South East England in its draft water resources plans.
Its proposals also include new reservoirs, alongside controversial concepts such as ‘water recycling’ – which Thames Water considers the cheapest and quickest solution.
This involves abstracting 75m litres of water a day from the River Thames at Teddington, west London, and replacing it with treated sewage from the nearby Mogden sewage treatment works.
However, in a damning analysis of the company’s plans, the Environment Agency said Thames Water needs to reassess its plans and ordered the water supplier to sort out its leak issues.
The report said: “Thames Water leaks more water than any other company. The company has struggled to maintain its planned level of leakage, especially over the past year. Given the size of the leakage issues faced by Thames Water, we expect the company to invest in new research and development to identify ways it could substantially reduce leakage further than the 50 per cent reduction target by 2050.”
The supplier enforced a hosepipe ban for millions of customers across England during last summer’s heatwave to deal with persistent droughts, which left customers in Northend, Buckinghamshire without running water.
An Environment Agency spokesperson told City A.M.: “We require further evidence that the direct river abstraction proposal put forward by Thames Water would not have adverse impacts on the environment, along with proof of its long-term viability in light of climate change.
“We urge Thames Water to produce this evidence as quickly as possible and develop alternative options to ensure that it can deliver a secure supply of water for its customers for the next 25 years and beyond.”
A Thames Water spokesperson said reducing leakage was “a priority” for the firm.
“We are repairing over 1,300 leaks per week – whether they are visible or hidden below ground across 20,000 miles of pipes across our network – that’s one leak every 7.5 minutes. We’re also working with our customers to reduce leakage from their water pipes, which make up a third of our total leakage,” the spokesperson said.
Last month, it was revealed that the company had brought in advisors to tackle its £14bn debt pile, and that it had also failed to meet its infrastructure investment targets last year.
The supplier also faces impending enforcement action following investigations by Ofwat and the Environment Agency for unauthorised sewage leaks, which will likely result in a financial penalty.