Category Archives: Resilience

Thames Water needs to hear from you!

This is the first of a series on blogs focusing on the Water Resource Management Plans for the water companies operating in the south east. To find out what these plans are and why they are important, read our Introduction Blog.

Thames Water is the largest water and wastewater provider in the UK, serving 15 million customers throughout the Thames basin, right from the Cotswolds to the Thames Estuary, where the river meets the sea.

In this blog we will outline their Water Resources Management Plan to help you understand how Thames Water’s proposals will affect your local environment, and highlight what we think are the key points to raise in their consultation to see the best improvement for our rivers and streams.

Their consultation is open until the 29th April so make sure you don’t miss your opportunity to stand up for your local river. 

Currently…

  • Every day Thames Water alone removes 2,600 million litres of water from natural systems, including rivers and the underground reserves that feed our wonderful chalkstreams,  in order to meet our water demands. The more water we use, the more they take and the less there is available for wildlife.
  • 25% of this abstracted water is lost before it even reaches us through leaks in supply pipes. This is an unnecessary loss of our precious water resource.
  • Thames Water have estimated that with increasing population, and decreasing water availability due to climate change, there will be a water shortfall of 864 million litres per day by 2100.

  • There were 1290 incidents of raw sewage flooding last year. Blockages and heavy rainfall can overwhelm the capacity of the current outdated drainage system, causing untreated waste to back up and overflow, entering the environment. See our video of the overflowing Epsom Storm Tanks here.
  • 385 “minor pollution incidents” occurred over the same period. These can be caused by misconnected drainage from residential and business properties, when foul water from sinks, washing machines and toilets, is accidentally entering the surface water drainage system and flowing untreated, directly into rivers.

          Chalkstream experiencing low flows.                      Polluting outfall with “sewage rag”

Key Improvement Areas…

We’ve seen first-hand the threats facing rivers in our region. Thames Water has many opportunities to lessen the impacts they are having on the natural environment and some key areas to improve include:

  • Reducing the amount of water wasted through leakages.
  • Stopping abstraction from our rare chalkstream habitats and use more sustainable sources instead.
  • Increasing capacity and investing more in updating old assets in their sewage system that can no longer cope with the increased population, like the storm tanks.
  • Rectifying misconnected drains and working more closely with partners and local authorities to stop new misconnections occurring.
  • Helping consumers to reduce the amount of water they use at home.
  • Installing Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) to reduce the volume of surface water getting into the sewer system during storms, which overload the network and often result in pollution incidents.

Have your say…

There is the potential for great improvement to the health of our rivers. We’d like you to help empower Thames Water to make the right decisions by showing your customer support for increased investment in environmental improvement works and calling for some of the actions we have outlined above.

This consultation ends on 29th April.

Got 1 minute? Find Thames Water on Facebook or Twitter using @thameswater and send your views with #yourwaterfuture

Got 5 minutes? Use the Thames Water Interactive Tool so show them how you’d like their spending to be prioritised.

Got a bit longer? Send Thames Water an email at consultations@thameswater.co.uk with your views. We’ve drafted a template you can personalise to help start you off, download it here.

The full Thames Water plans can be found on their consultation page.

It’s Invasive Species Week!

What are they and how can you help ‘Stop the Spread’?

Invasive species are non-native animals and plants (terrestrial, freshwater and marine) that have established themselves in the UK and are causing problems for our native wildlife and ecosystems. Invasive non-native species (INNS) are globally recognised as a major threat to biodiversity, second only to habitat loss. Economically, their impact is also highly significant. A recent study in the UK concluded that the direct cost of controlling these species is at least £1.7 billion every year, with researchers admitting that this is likely to be a gross underestimate. This week we are trying to raise awareness of the problematic invasive species found in our rivers here in the South East and what you can do to help.

Exotic plants have been introduced to the UK for centuries! Plants that now seem commonplace to us were once brought here from far and wide for their attractive flowers or leaves, medicinal qualities or for food. Not all of these are a problem, and the benefits they have brought with them far outweigh any negatives. However, some of them have aggressive seed dispersal, are fast growing and aren’t eaten by any animals in the UK, meaning that they can out compete our native flora and take over.

Rivers can act like corridors for dispersal of seeds, which means that dense populations of these troublesome plants can often be found clogging rivers and dominating plant life along the banks. You can find out about the BIG FOUR invasive plant species we have here in the South East on our website: www.wandletrust.org/invasive-species/the-big-four/

The GB Non-Native Species Secretariat is a national body with a responsibility for helping to coordinate the approach to INNS in Great Britain. We encourage you to follow their advice and ‘be plant wise’ when choosing plants to go in your garden to help stop the spread of invasive species: http://www.nonnativespecies.org/beplantwise/.

Our amazing team of River Rangers have just completed their first INNS survey on the River Wandle for 2018. These surveys help identify and locate INNS on our waterways which allows us manage their removal in the long term. If you’re interested in becoming a River Ranger please get in touch on volunteers@southeastriverstrurst.org.

But it’s not just plants that are having a big impact on our rivers: animals introduced in the past are also now playing havoc with the natural balance of life. With no predators these species can take over, spreading disease and competing with native wildlife for food and resources.

A classic tale is that of American signal crayfish which was introduced the 1970s for export to Scandinavia where it’s a sought-after food. Unfortunately, they are carriers of crayfish plague and they can pass this deadly disease to native white-clawed crayfish whilst remaining healthy themselves. The signal crayfish is much larger than its native relatives and is a voracious predator feeding on a variety of fish, frogs, invertebrates, plants, and even eating other signal crayfish. It didn’t take long for the signal crayfish to escape from commercial fisheries and begin to outcompete their UK cousins for habitat and food.  Since their introduction they have decimated the native crayfish populations wherever they are present, and cause further problems by burrowing into river and canal banks causing erosion, bank collapse and sediment pollution. There have been anecdotal reports of signal crayfish spotted on the Hogsmill River recently.

You can help stop the spread of INNS like the signal crayfish by following the ‘check, clean, dry’ process on all your clothing and kit after visiting a river: http://www.nonnativespecies.org/checkcleandry/.

Hitchhiking eggs, seeds and disease can be spread between rivers if these rules aren’t followed, having a devastating effect on our wonderful native wildlife. But everyone can play their part in stopping the spread! Please be careful to check, clean and dry after your next visit to the river.

SERT part of legacy delivering £1.9m for nature

We are delighted that SERT is one of five charitable trusts to have been awarded funding from the Patsy Wood Trust, designed to deliver a lasting impact for the environment.

The projects will benefit rivers, woodland, butterflies and landscapes as well as inspiring young people to care for nature through a new skills and learning centre.

The legacy will fund our new Water For All project, working with businesses and communities across the South East to reduce their water use.

You can read the full press release here: PatsyWoodTrust_JointProjectPressRelease_Nov2017.