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This website has been created using the best information available to GARD at the time of its compilation. The opinions expressed are based on GARD’s perception of the issues involved and the stance taken by Thames Water.




BACKGROUND: Following the public inquiry held in 2010 into Thames Water’s 2009 Water Reosurces Management Plan, the inspector found that the TW’s proposals were:

  • not fit for purpose;
  • not compliant (they had over estimated demand); and that
  • some important alternatives to the proposed Abingdon reservoir (Upper Thames Reservoir UTR) south west of Abingdon had not been properly investigated, particularly the options involving water transfers from R Severn to R Thames to supply London’s reservoirs.

As a result the inspector ruled out TW’s proposed 100 million cubic meter reservoir.

Consequently, TW’s plan was subsequently amended as a result of these findings.

In their 2014 Plan (WRMP14) TW backed-off any suggestion of an immediate start to a reservoir, instead they addressed the forecast water deficit by aiming to:

  • reduce consumption per household through public education and increased compulsory metering, and by continuing their leakage reduction programme (but on a very unambitious scale and only until 2020 – and they have even failed their own modest targets, resulting in a £8.5M fine from OFWAT in 2017);
  • a large increase in re-use of treated effluent as a sustainable method of increasing supply.

However, they maintained that a new UTR reservoir near Abingdon - capacity not specified! - would be needed beyond 2030. This shows TW are fixated on this huge reservoir project, and will stick by it whatever the counter-indications as to its viability and appropriateness.

GARD’s view of the 2014 Plan was that the actual deficit would be considerably smaller than TW’s plan stated, and that their leakage reduction proposals should not only be much more ambitious but should extend well beyond 2020. In addition, GARD, whilst welcoming the increased water re-use plans was convinced that bulk transfers from R Severn into R Thames would prove to be the most appropriate, and least costly solution with low environmental damage.

We are now part-way through the process of consultation on a new draft Water Resources Managment Plan (dWRMP19). This covers the period at least until 2045, but makes proposals for a period out to 2080, as new government guidelines support more long-term planning by Water Companies.

TW have now produced a 'Fine Screening Report' to propose a set of water supply options which would be worked up in more detail over the next year to produce the final list of water source and demand management proposals which would go the the government (DEFRA) at the end of 2018. An executive summary of these proposals can be downloaded as a PDF file by clicking this link.

TW now include in their plans:

  • definite sites for water re-use plants;
  • another de-salination plant;
  • water transfers from the Severn to the Thames (supported by infrastructure provided by Severn Trent Water and/or United Utilities);
  • more abstraction direct from the River Thames in the London area; and
  • (once again!) a major reservoir on the Abingdon UTR site – this last option has not yet a specified size, but it could be up to 150 Million cubic metres in size (50% larger than the size rejected in 2010).
  • TW also have more ambitious plans to reduce leakage and increase metering (though still not ambitious enough compared to other Water Companies!)

This report was put out to public consultation, which ended on 31st October 2016. GARD's detailed response can be downloaded as a PDF file here by clicking this link.

Whilst we welcome TW's inclusion of re-use, desalination, water transfer and direct abstraction proposals, GARD still rejects absolutely the case for a reservoir of any size being required. We also believe that TW have still not evaluated water transfer correctly, and that this is a much more important and lower cost water source than TW's flawed analysis proposes. GARD also believes that the leakage reduction and metering targets remain unambitious, and that TW's climate change and drought scenarios need serious challenge. To achieve cost effective, long term and sustainable solutions, the challenge still faced by Thames Water is to carry out essential environmental, technical and economic research work on these main options in the next year.

In spite of GARD's criticisms (and those of the Environment Agency and other stakeholders) during the consultation period, TW essentially made no concessions in their final version of the Fine Screening Report, released in April 2017. This was a very important stage, as options which are rejected at the Fine Screening stage would not have been in the final submitted plan. GARD remains committed to fighting the TW reservoir proposals and to research which will expose TW's flawed reasoning.

Thames Water will do detailed plans for their shortlisted options and perform Detailed cost estimates and Environmental and other Assessments in order to propose a Programme for the WRMP19. This is likely to propose a few – maybe two or three - new water supply sources, together with a demand management (leak-reduction and metering) plan, for the period up to the 2040s. The plan will be submitted to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in January 2018. A period of public consultation will follow ending in March 2018. Following that, there may be a Public Inquiry, if opposition is strong enough.

GARD believes it is extremely important to maintain opposition to the reservoir throughout this period. We have demonstrated that Thames Water's plans can be defeated by a combination of refuting their dubious technical arguments in favour of the reservoir, by pointing out the better alternatives, and by strong public pressure on decision makers and the media. We will maintin this, and ask you to help us in this fight.