Thames Water has launched a public consultation on its draft water resources management plan, asking for customers’ views on how the company plans to provide a secure and sustainable supply of water over the next 80 years.
Publication of the draft plan follows extensive and detailed modelling of more than 200 options by the UK’s largest water provider, accounting for significant population growth in London and the Thames Valley and a changing climate.
A key theme throughout the plan is making the most efficient use of all current available water resources, including setting an ambitious leakage target. The company is seeking to achieve a 15 per cent reduction in water escaping from its 20,000-mile network of pipes by 2025, 10 years earlier than originally planned.
The business is also set to install a further one million smart meters in homes by 2035, which put customers in control of their water use. To date, Thames Water has installed over 230,000 smart meters across the capital, with households reducing water use by an average of around 16 per cent.
Thames Water’s chief executive, Steve Robertson, said: “By 2045, our region is expected to be home to two million more people. In contrast to the increasing demand, we expect to see a declining supply of water as climate change increases the likelihood and severity of droughts.
“Our plan aims to meet the growing needs of the wider south east, and we’ve been working with fellow water companies in England and Wales to take a co-ordinated approach to ensure we offer our customers the best possible value solution. We now want to hear what our customers and stakeholders think.”
Demand management proposals alone won’t be enough to meet the increasing demand, so new sources of water are also proposed. These include a new scheme to take more water from the River Thames above Teddington Weir in west London from 2030, and constructing a new reservoir in Oxfordshire in the 2040s.
John Dickie, director of strategy and policy at business group London First, said: “London businesses rely on clean and constant water supplies, from turning on the tap in offices, hotels and restaurants to cooling data centres. To keep the water flowing we need to reduce wasteful leaks and disruptive burst pipes, and put in place a long term plan to meet rising demand from our growing population.
“By doing more to manage demand, and developing significant new water sources, London will build essential resilience to future droughts.”
Paul Britton, Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce chief executive, added: “Population growth across the Thames Valley, and the impacts of climate change, are increasing the risk drought poses to the region through water use restrictions. This may limit the availability of water to certain sectors or, in extreme cases, to all businesses. The economic costs of such restrictions range from £600m to £2.1bn in an extreme drought. We therefore need to consider a step change in the level of water supply resilience in our region.”
Nicci Russell, Managing Director of independent water efficiency experts Waterwise, said: “I'm delighted to see the ambition set out in this plan. We only have to look at Cape Town to see the social, environmental and economic impacts in a global city of taking too little action, too late.
“It's entirely right that Thames Water should be protecting its customers - and the resilience of their water supply - by working more and more closely with them to help them save water. And it's right that increasing water efficiency for every home takes precedence over finding 'new' sources of water.
“We look forward to stretching water efficiency targets in the final plan.”
The full plan is available to view here and the consultation runs from 9 February until 29 April.
All responses will be carefully considered and a report will be produced in August, setting out the comments received and explaining how Thames Water has taken these into account in revising the plan.