London 'could face mass water shortage by 2040 if ancient pipes are not replaced'

London could face a mass water shortage by 2040 if drastic action is not taken to fix ancient pipes as authorities warned supply is set to reach dangerously low levels.

Major pipe bursts across the capital prompted the London Assembly to today renew calls for Thames Water to rethink how it is addressing concerns over long-term shortages - writes

After a week of floods and water shortages across the capitalcaused by extreme weather , the London Assemblyurged the water company to take action.

The authority had previously saidwater demand was outstripping supply and warned that the utilities firm’s internal projections understatedthe “severity of the situation”.

An earlier report that suggested the city could see a supply shortfall of 20 per cent by 2040.

Leonie Cooper, chairwomanof the London Assembly’s environment committee, said Thames Water’s aging water infrastructure is contributing to a widening gap between water supply and demand.

Traffic chaos in London as flooding closes roads

She told the Standard: “London now faces a major gap between its water supply and the needs of its growing population. Ageing water infrastructure does not help.

“The frequency of burst pipes and the water lost to thousands of small long-term leaks are symptoms of under-investment in our water network.”

In response to the calls to readdress the issue, Thames Water stressed that it is working to secure a plan for managing its resources over the coming years.

Local residents collect bottled water distributed by Thames Water after mains supplies to homes were cut off following bad weather, in Balham , south London (REUTERS)

The firm said in statement: “We take the management of water resources very seriously, with our latest draft plan looking at how we’ll manage resources over the next 80 years currently out for public consultation.

“Our plans aim 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 coordinated approach to ensure we offer customers the best possible value solution.”

West London suffering from flood aftermath

If the gap between water supply levels and demandcontinues to deepen then tight restrictions on how households and businesses can use water, such as hose-pipe bans, would need to be put in place.

In 2016, a report into projected water shortfalls found that the capital’s supply had already fallen below demand.

The same London Assembly report suggested that the city would see a supply shortfall of 20 per cent by 2040, which amounts to abound a bath full less per person living in the city every day.


A burst pipe caused flooding on Brixton Water Lane

The authority’s calls come after 20,000 homes in the capital were left without water when a number of pipes bursts following the severe conditions brought by the so-called Beast from the East.

Thousands of households were this week suffering shortages for days, forcing Thames Water to open water bottle banks for those affected to collect amid deep freeze.

The latest major burst saw motorists and bus passengers facing major disruption in Tooting Broadway as several shops and flats were flooded on Wednesday.

A Thames Water spokeswoman said that the impact major bursts have on water levels in the long term is “relatively” small compared to untreated leakages.

She said that while huge bursts look severe, much of the water is recycled as it returns to the sewage system, whereas what is lost from unspotted leaks can seep into the earth and never be recovered.

The water company's ancient infrastructure is not the only problem it faces in relation to depleting supply.

In a 2016 London Assembly report on the long term sustainable growth for London, the authority said water shortage issues would only become more challenging in the future.

It warned that Thames Water had not “fully” considered potential pollution growth when outline its predictions for water supply and demand.

Less-than-normal rainfall could also impact water supply levels, the authority claimed in its environmental committee report.

London could be more vulnerable to lack of this natural water supply than other major cities. It receives an average annual rainfall of about 600mm, around half of what New York sees.

Acknowledging the need to address supply and demand issues, Thames Water today said: “We rely on rainfall to top up our reservoirs and the groundwater that keeps rivers flowing.

“By 2045, our region will be home to two million more people. This coupled with climate change, means we have to take action to ensure supply can meet demand into the future.”

While it is not the only issue to consider when analysing potential causes of long term water shortages, burst water pipes appears to be a growing problem.

Burst mains surged by more than 1,000 last year.

According to figures obtained by the Standard, Thames Water attended 5,229 leaks from April 2016 to April 2017, compared to 4,150 the year before. This is a 26 per cent increase year-on-year.

Thames Water maintains a total of 10,000 miles of water pipes in London, much of which is made of Victorian cast iron which are far more likely to burst than new materials as they age.

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