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Thames Water plans to open a £1bn reservoir

September 15, 2006 at 2:41 am

Thames Water unveiled their plans today to construct a new reservoir near Abingdon in Oxfordshire. It is expected to function as the biggest site to store water for 25 years. The capacity of the new reservoir is estimated at 150 billion litres of water and the estimated cost of construction will be about £1bn.

However, the news was greeted with a lot of scepticism because Thames Water has been criticised in the past by Ofwat, the water watchdog, for its appalling leakage record. It is worth pointing out that the amount stored in the proposed reservoir will fall far shorter than the 900 million litres of water a day that is being lost because of poor maintenance of Thames Water pipes across London.

The proposed plan will further outrage Thames Water customers because it is likely to lead to further price rises. The company insists that the alternative would have been long term water restrictions and hosepipe bans. In addition, they argue, because of global warming it is anticipated that with hotter summers there will be an increased need for water in London and the South East. The area itself is projected to grow by another 800,000 people in the next ten years.

Furthermore, the prospect of compulsory relocation for some of the residents of the villages of East Hanney and Steventon appears to be another thorny issue associated with the proposed project. Some residents are likely to object to forced relocation but the company hopes to avoid issuing compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) by carrying out appropriate consultations. There will be three rounds of consultations between the company and the local stakeholders before the project gets the green light, so Thames Water aims to settle all disputes during this process. However, if the sides reach no agreement, the company will then proceed with issuing compulsory purchase orders (CPOs).

Thames Water is keen to engage with the local population to explain why they should secure future water supply by effectively storing rainwater in winter and use it in the dry months of the summer. There is initial opposition to this plan by the Campaign to Protect Rural England who are clearly not convinced. They claim that there might not be a need for building such a reservoir, hinting that Thames Water should do more to prove their case. It seems that the legacy of wasted water through leakages will continue to haunt the company.

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Thames Water withdraws application for Drought Order

September 4, 2006 at 12:28 pm

Thames Water has announced that they have rescinded their application for a Drought Order in 2006. The company applied to the Government for the order at the end of June as a precautionary response to very low groundwater levels, and fears of hot, dry months to come. If granted the Drought Order would have allowed Thames Water to restrict water usage for filling private swimming pools and washing cars in London.

However, during July and August the southeast has experienced nearly average rainfall, meaning that reservoir levels have increased to a healthy 78%. Thames Water also said that ‘the response from our customers has been magnificent’, and that despite the July heat-wave, demand for water was down by 8% on the average for this time of year.

The hosepipe ban however, will stay in place for customers of Thames Water and many other companies operating in the southeast. Thames Water has been quick to emphasise that the recent rainfall does not amount to an alleviation of the drought, but merely that ‘it isn’t getting any worse’.

Indeed, the situation is still dire. The south of England is suffering from the worst long-term drought since 1933, and at the same time, the average person is using a staggering 50% more water than 25 years ago, according to beatthedrought.com. Failure to act upon the problem will lead to drastic results for the wildlife, the landscape, and for the public.

Water companies are taking the situation very seriously. Amongst other initiatives to aid the situation, suppliers who are not experiencing such sever drought are sharing their water with those who are. Portsmouth Water for example is supplying 15 million litres a day to Southern Water customers in Sussex (www.beatthedrought.com). Water companies collectively plan to spend £555 million on long-term solutions to water shortage.

It is imperative that consumers continue to take positive steps to minimise water wastage in the home. The role played by Thames Water’s London customers is testimony to what can be achieved. For information on how you can start saving water in your home visit our ‘Help & Advice’ page.

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