Thames Water publicly commits to river health improvement package

Thames Water CEO Sarah Bentley

Thames Water CEO, Sarah Bentley, has announced new measures to improve river quality and reduce sewage discharges, in a speech at The Rivers Trust Annual Spring Conference.

In the speech, Sarah Bentley said: “In October 2020 we changed our position and said clearly that discharges of untreated sewage are unacceptable, even when they are permitted. Since then, working with others, we have a number of projects and initiatives under way which will help us reach a position where they are no longer necessary. That will take time, effort, and sustained investment but ultimately, we expect to be judged on our performance, which means setting and meeting targets.”

She also outlined the four commitments being made by Thames:

  1. Thames Water commits to a 50% reduction in the total annual duration of spills across London and the Thames Valley by 2030, and within that an 80% reduction in sensitive catchments
  2. Achieves key milestone in delivery of its commitment to provide live sewage discharge notifications, at all of its 468 sites by the end of 2022 – the first water company to make such a commitment
  3. 50% increase to funding for working with catchment partnerships and driving collaboration
  4. Thames Water is making good progress on delivering its £1.25 billion programme of maintaining and improving its operational sites between 2020-2025 – an average of £250 million a year
Sarah also said that work on the Thames Tideway Tunnel is nearing completion. It is the biggest single project undertaken by the UK water industry, and by far the largest to tackle combined sewer overflows (CSOs) which will divert millions of tonnes of sewage away from the Thames to improve river health.
“Transparency is really important to us.” Said Sarah, “That is why last year we committed to providing live notifications, within one hour of discharges starting and stopping, at all of our 468 permitted locations by the end of this year. I am pleased to announce that our open data pilot has been successful, as part of our mission to open up, and we will now move to the next phase of delivery.”
Thames Water was the first water company to make such a commitment for inland waters and has successfully piloted an open data platform in an industry-leading trial of real-time alerts of sewage discharges from six of its sites around Oxford in 2022.
Mark Lloyd, CEO, The Rivers Trust said: “Creating cleaner, healthier rivers fit for people and wildlife is fundamental to our future resilience. The Rivers Trust welcomes the urgent prioritisation that water companies are placing on addressing river pollution. It’s also really important that Thames Water have recognised the need to address these complex challenges in a collaborative manner. Working with the Rivers Trust to launch this £5 million fund, is just one example of the kind of collaborative work that will identify community needs and help restore and improve river health.  We will ensure that this work brings real benefits to local communities and that we build transparent accountability between partners.”


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