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Environment Agency asks Thames Water to fix leaks before taking water from river

  • Environment Agency asks Thames Water to fix leaks before taking water from river

English water company Thames Water will have to increase efforts to fix leakage before withdrawing more water from rivers to deal with drought, reports The Guardian. The Environment Agency has analysed the company’s draft Water Resources Management Plan 2024, which contemplates strategic options to provide a secure and sustainable water supply for the population in England’s South East.

The draft plan considers leakage reduction and measures to encourage water conservation along with new sources of water, including abstracting water from the River Thames at Teddington in London, which would be replaced with treated effluent, a new reservoir in Oxfordshire, and a water transfer from the River Severn.

The agency has asked Thames Water to do more to fix water leaks: “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”, says in a report. The agency expects the company to invest in R&D to look into ways to reduce leakage further than its target of 50% reduction by 2050.

Furthermore, the Environment Agency has concerns about several options proposed by Thames Water to augment water supplies. It has expressed reservations about the environmental impact and the viability of the proposed recycling water scheme that will abstract water from the River Thames at Teddington. It has also expressed doubts about the viability of the plan to transfer water from Wales via the River Severn, given the River Severn reached low water levels last summer and the water could be needed by other suppliers. Concerning the plan for a new reservoir in Oxfordshire, it will also need further work to assess its impacts.

The report also criticises Thames Water for the poor management of their desalination plant in east London, saying that “the company must either commit to improving the asset to ensure it is reliable for regular operation or decide to decommission and select a new option”.

While the agency acknowledges alternative schemes could be more costly, it says “the company needs to consider whether the short-term costs are outweighed by better long-term benefits”, noting Thames Water faces major challenges, more than any water company in England.

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