THAMES WATER’S DRAFT PLAN FOR 2020-2045
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 March 2013 TW posted their next draft Water Resources Management Plan (dWRMP 14) covering the 25 year period to 2040, on their website. It called for public consultation by 23 July 2013, and was passed after public consultation.
In their 2014 Plan 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). On the water supply side, TW’s plan envisaged a large increase in re-use of treated effluent as a sustainable method of increasing supply, but their method proposed was based on an energy intensive process known as reverse osmosis (RO). RO is 100% safe, but TW remained nervous that public consultation would reveal unfavourable response to recycled treated water usage, whatever the treatment/purification processes. To ensure adequate supply beyond 2030, TW 's WRMP 14 plan intended to bring in a major new resource from one or more of the following three options, each of which requires considerable further research work:
- A new UTR reservoir near Abingdon - capacity not specified!
- Further development of water re-use based on improved treatment methods.
- R Severn to R Thames bulk water transfers to top up TW’s London reservoirs, as required.
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 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. GARD also welcomed the inclusion of more water-re-use in the plans.
THE CURRENT THAMES WATER PROPOSALS
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.
We expect TW's response to the criticisms of the Fine Screening Report (from not only GARD but also the Environment Agency and other stakeholders) by the end of January 2017. This is a very important stage, as options which are rejected at the Fine Screening stage will not be in the final submitted plan. GARD remains committed to fighting the TW reservoir proposals and to research which will expose TW's flawed reasoning.