Thames Water ‘stopped emergency drought factory to save money’

Thames Water may have closed a drought emergency plant to save energy costs, the local MP said.

The desalination plant in Beckton, east London, has been shut down despite water shortages and an imminent ban on garden hoses, the Telegraph reported earlier this week.

The first garden hose ban goes into effect today for people living in parts of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, which are supplied by Southern Water.

South East Water, which supplies parts of Kent and Sussex, will introduce a ban on garden hoses for 1.3 million people from next Friday, and Welsh Water has also announced a ban on parts of West Wales.

George Eustice, the environment minister, is reportedly on annual leave in his constituency of Cornwall, rather than Westminster, as the drought crisis intensified.

A spokesman said Friday afternoon: “George Eustice is in his Camborne and Redruth constituency but is in contact with Defra policy officials about the drought and met with the policy team at 11am this morning.”

The Thames Water plant, which is designed to take water from the Thames Estuary and treat it to make drinking water, is out of service for maintenance, despite the company including it in drought plans submitted to the Environment Agency earlier this year. have been submitted.

Desalination is energy intensive and requires both electricity and heat. Electricity costs have increased by about 50 percent since last year.

‘Very strange that it is out of action’

The plant will cost more than ten times as much as a standard sewage treatment plant, the company said, at around £660 per million litres, compared to £45 per million liters for a standard installation.

Stephen Timms, Member of Parliament for East Ham, said: “It seems puzzling to me if we are clearly in a situation which is exactly the kind of situation where this plant was meant to help us, it seems very odd that it is out of action.

“If it’s scheduled maintenance, don’t you schedule a different time than when it’s likely to be used?

“Is it because of the cost of electricity and are they just unwilling to pay and use it? In that case, of course, they should tell us.”

In its draft drought plans, which set out how the company plans to deal with low water supplies, Thames Water admitted that the plant could only handle two-thirds of its planned capacity.

The installation has been in operation only occasionally over the past 10 years, including in 2016 and 2018.

It has now completely stopped working and will not be available this summer to help with the water supply as the south east of the UK faces rapidly declining water levels with continued dry weather.

The capacity problems are caused by the plant’s location on the estuary and the resulting varying salinity levels.

High flows of more than 100 million per day through the plant produced water with too much sediment, reducing the effectiveness of the disinfection process.

In documents published earlier this year, the company said “demand management,” including a push for domestic water meters, public awareness of water conservation measures and leak management, would make up for lost capacity.

Current maintenance focuses on repairing pipes and electrical systems, the company said, as part of a planned £34 million project.

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