Tag Archives: Thames Water

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 Blockages and heavy rainfall can overwhelm the capacity of the current outdated drainage system, causing untreated waste to back up and overflow, entering the environment.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.

Help shape the future of your water supply and protect our rivers

Water companies across the UK are consulting on their Water Resource Management Plans, and as a customer, you have the opportunity to comment on these plans and influence how your money is spent.

What are Water Resource Management Plans?

Since the water and sewerage industry was privatised in 1989, a regulatory framework was put in place to ensure that consumers receive high standards of service at a fair price. As part of this framework, water companies are required to set out how they will balance water supply and water demand; these are the statutory Water Resource Management Plans (WRMPs). These plans feed into the price review process, overseen by Ofwat, and therefore affect what you pay on your bill at home.

Why should I respond?

Water affects every aspect of our day-to-day lives, from having a drink to flushing the toilet. The water we use comes from the environment, taken from our rivers and the underground aquifers that feed our rivers. The more water we take, the less there is to support wildlife.

These plans highlight how the companies plan to meet the demand for more water in the next 25 years and therefore it is important your voice is heard to help protect our precious rivers and streams.

Did you know we are “Seriously Water Stressed”?

Despite its reputation, England is not as rainy as everyone thinks. For instance, London actually receives less rainfall each year than cities like Miami, Dallas and even Sydney. This means that the South East of England is classified by the Environment Agency as “seriously water stressed” and with projected population increases over the next 80 years, all water companies are looking to find more water to meet the increasing demand.

Did you know the south of England is home to globally rare habitats?

The south of England is lucky enough to be home to chalk streams, a globally rare habitat with only 200 remaining worldwide. They are home to many amazing plants and animals, forming the distinct communities uniquely associated with the clean, chalk-purified water.  They rely on there being sufficient water present in the chalk aquifers, and abstraction from these is a serious threat to their existence.

Did you know raw sewage is discharged into our rivers every day?

While these plans are about water resource and water supply to our homes, they are linked to the other function many water companies provide: wastewater. Thames Water and Southern Water provide wastewater services across the south east, taking used water (sewage) from our homes, cleaning it in the sewage treatment works and then returning it to the environment. As part of their sewer network, there are Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs). These CSOs act as emergency discharge valves for when the sewer network is overloaded by rainfall, discharging untreated sewage into our rivers and streams to prevent it backing up in pipes and potentially our homes.  The more water we take from the environment, the less natural water there is in the river to dilute these discharges, making their impacts on the ecology of the river worse.

How do I respond?

To respond, you need to know which water company supplies your water.

The plans contain a fair amount of detail and so to help you digest this, over the next 2 months we will be posting a series of blogs on each of water company’s plans to help you understand how they will affect your local environment, and highlight what we think are the key points to raise to see the best improvement for our rivers and streams.

The series will start with Thames Water as their consultation closes on 29th April.

If you can’t wait for our blogs, click your water company’s name below and you will be taken to their consultation page.

Thames Water

SES Water

Southern Water

Affinity Water

South East Water

The Hogsmill river, a globally rare chalk river, is regularly contaminated with sewage

On the afternoon of Wednesday 24th January 2018, this happened…

…. And it’s not an isolated event. This is sewage, temporarily held in a Thames Water storm water tank in Epsom, discharging into the Green Lanes Stream and the Hogsmill river.

What are Storm Tanks and why is this happening?

The Hogsmill (Epsom and Ewell) Storm Tanks are both located in the upper reaches of the Hogsmill river. The tanks function as temporary storage for untreated sewage as it travels through the network of pipes towards the Hogsmill Sewage Treatment Works (STW). During heavy rainfall, rainwater as well as sewage fills up the system: to prevent it backing up into homes, there are temporary storage systems like these storm tanks, and sometimes overflow pipes into rivers (known as combined sewer overflows), which help to relieve the pressure.  Usually the storm tanks contain the sewage until the rain has passed and the sewage can drain back into the network to be treated at the Hogsmill STW. However, occasionally, during higher rainfall, the storm tanks fill up completely and will discharge any excess sewage to the Hogsmill river itself.

This system was designed when the population of London was much lower and the area of paved urban surfaces (which cause rain to run off rather than infiltrating into the ground) was much less. It is a consented discharge – which means it is legal – as it was originally designed to happen only very occasionally as a kind of safety valve for the system (once or twice a year we think), but with population growth, urbanisation and climate change, it now happens more frequently. Our volunteers have monitored around 12 or 14 flow events per year in recent years.

Why is all this a problem for the Hogsmill?

The Hogsmill is classified as a chalkstream, a globally rare habitat with only 200 remaining worldwide. Chalkstreams give rise to a unique set of species that depend heavily on the clean, chalk-purified water and are consequently very sensitive to any decline in water quality.  The Hogsmill Storm Tanks are therefore a real threat to the chalkstream species community, even more so because they discharge sewage into the headwaters, affecting the entire river downstream.

When the system was designed and consented, it was done so on the assumption that the sewage would be diluted as the river would have high flows from all the rain. Unfortunately two things have happened which mean there is much less water in the Hogsmill than at that time. Firstly, many areas have been paved over with urban growth, meaning rainwater runs down drains rather than soaking into the ground and feeding the river. Secondly, the groundwater aquifer from which the Hogsmill flows, is the same source of water that comes out of our taps, and all the water we use has reduced the amount available for the river, and, ultimately, dilution of the storm tank effluent.

Finally, we know that the Hogsmill is important to local people and loved by many. None of us want to see it polluted, and we are particularly worried about this pollution because many people enjoy paddling in the river in warmer months.

What can we do about it?

The South East Rivers Trust and the Hogsmill Catchment Partnership are very concerned about all these impacts and have been working with Thames Water to find a solution.

 Our network was designed to discharge here when it becomes overloaded after heavy rain.  These discharges are legal in storm conditions, but of course deeply unpleasant and undesirable.  We understand the local concerns and are currently studying ways to manage flows better across this whole catchment.  We will share the report with the Catchment Partnership when the work is complete.  In the meantime, I can confirm that a clean-up operation started today, with the aim of removing as much litter as possible” – Richard Aylard, External Affairs and Sustainability Director, Thames Water 25th January 2018

What can you do to help?

While it may seem a problem which most of us can do little about, everyone can actually be part of the solution. The Catchment Partnership will continue to work with Thames Water to find a permanent solution to the problem. In the meantime, below are just some of the ways we all impact the sewer network and how we can help to alleviate the system.

Say no to paved gardens!

Every time a garden or driveway is paved over, we are exacerbating this problem. Tarmac, pavements, decking, and other similar surfaces, are usually impermeable to water, so rain simply washes off straight down the drain. With more and more people opting for paving, we are putting an increasing demand on the sewage network, making it more likely that the tanks will fill up and over top, discharging to the Hogsmill more and more frequently and with greater volume ending up in the river.

Bin it, don’t flush it!

Walking down the Hogsmill, you may see some unexpected items such as cotton buds, wet wipes and sanitary products. These have been flushed down toilets and have reached the Hogsmill through the Storm Tanks or misconnected pipes. Within the sewer system, they can also cause blockages and when combined with fats and oils from the kitchen sinks, create giant fatbergs, which can burst sewers, over top into nearby rivers or flood people’s homes.

The only things that should be flushed down the toilet are the three Ps – pee, poo and paper. Wet wipes are often claimed to be flushable, but these are actually are one of the biggest causes of blockages. So, unless it’s one of the three Ps, bin it, don’t flush it… or you may see it again in the Hogsmill!

The overflow pipe from Ewell Storm Tanks on the Hogsmill after a discharge incident.

The 2016 Hogsmill Forum

The Hogsmill River may have its problems, but it is one of the lucky urban rivers to have huge community support and many enthusiastic volunteers.

We run our Pollution Patrol on the Hogsmill, tracking down polluted outfalls and misconnections. While ZSL run the Riverfly Monitoring Initiative which uses the kick sampling of invertebrates to check for organic pollution.

So to thank everyone for their hard work, both projects combined for a joint Hogsmill Forum – kindly hosted by ZSL at London Zoo.

Hogs Forum

The event was a huge success with some really interesting discussions on the priorities for the Hogsmill going forward. Below you can download PDFs of the presentations.

Presentations:

 

Happy Anniversary to the Hogsmill Pollution Patrol

Pollution on the HogsmillWith the start of 2016 comes the One Year Anniversary of our Hogsmill Pollution Patrol scheme – and what an amazing job it has done so far!

Throughout 2015, our trained volunteers have been monitoring 15 outfalls on the Hogsmill for signs of pollution such as misconnected appliances and sewage discharge.

Together they have submitted 470 reports of pollution to us. Working with the Environment Agency and Thames Water, we have been able to start investigating these issues and begin work towards rectifying them to improve water quality on the Hogsmill River.

To read the latest update of our work, please download our Newsletter below.

Pollution Newsletter December 2015

If you see pollution on your river, call the Environment Agency hotline on:

0800 80 70 60

Pollution