Thames Water bosses plan to turn sewage into drinking water

Water bosses have drawn up detailed plans to turn sewage into drinking water as one of a series of measures to prevent London’s taps from running dry, the Standard has learned.

In a doomsday prediction, Thames Water today said the Capital is facing a £330 million-a-day loss to the economy if dramatic changes are not made to secure the city’s supply.

The company warned that in a little over 25 years a projected population growth of more than two million people will leave a shortfall of 351 million litres per day between the amount of water available and that used, at a time when natural sources are set to decrease due to climate change.

Thames Water now wants to open the country’s first effluent “reuse” plant at the Deephams Sewage Treatment Works near Edmonton, north-east London, to make sewage waste clean enough to drink.

The £160 million plant will be intended for use in times of “projected or actual drought”, the company said, with discussions “ongoing” with the Environment Agency over its viability.

The company has also revived plans rejected by the government in 2011 to build a new £1.7 billion reservoir in Oxfordshire, and to ship water supplies down to the Thames along the Oxford Canal to “ensure taps keep flowing”.

If approved by the Government, the reservoir near Abingdon — scheduled for completion in 2037 — will play a “vital role” in supplying water to the South East, Thames Water said.

The company also has the UK’s only desalination plant, in Beckton, which turns sea water into 150 million litres of drinking water a day during a drought. The proposals form part of the company’s water resources management plan over the next 80 years, with £11.7 billion budgeted for until 2025.

As well as pledging to cut leakage from its 20,000-mile network of pipes, a spokesman said the projects were necessary as “more needs to be done to protect Londoners from the risk of severe drought”. He said: “Restrictions on water use in London alone could cost more than £300 million a day.” 

The plant will see 45 million litres a day enter the water system by taking treated sewage effluent and passing it through a “desalination membrane” to clean it. It will then be mixed with reservoir water before being treated again and pumped into the network.

The spokesman added: “We wouldn’t consider reuse if we didn’t think the water would be good enough.”

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