Thames Water wants to know what we think of its plan to tackle river pollution from plumbing misconnections. Much more must be done. To save our rivers you can send them London Waterkeeper’s formal response.

Thames Water’s draft Business Plan for 2020-2025 is out for consultation now. London Waterkeeper wants a fivefold increase in efforts to stop sewage reaching rivers, not the trebling proposed in the Plan. If you send this email it will go to Thames Water but also the Environment Agency and the water industry regulator Ofwat and form part of the formal decision process. The closing date for responses is the 29th April 2018.

Misconnections are when properties connect a toilet, sink, washing machine, or a dishwasher to a drain that leads to a river. This is illegal of course – polluting rivers is a criminal offence. But most people don’t know if their home is breaking the law and pouring raw sewage into a precious river. In London there are almost 100,000 properties doing this. It’s only obvious when all these drains pour from the outfall at the river.

Raw human sewage coming from an outfall at the Wealdstone Brook, Brent

Raw human sewage coming from an outfall at the Wealdstone Brook, Brent

A recent report by the Zoological Society of London says there are more than 1,000 drains spewing sewage into watercourses in London (Thames Water worked on the project with ZSL). The Environment Agency says misconnections are a major reason why virtually all rivers in London fail water quality standards.

Many rivers flow through parks which means there’s a chance of people and dogs coming into contact with human sewage. This is a public health risk and unacceptable in the 21st Century.

Thames Water has a good system for finding out which homes are misconnected. When people are told, 90% of them quickly sort it out. But the Environment Agency set a target of only 40 polluting outfalls a year between 2015 and 2020. This was a small fraction of the total number and means rivers are being damaged now. The next Business Plan must have the appropriate amount of investment in the problem. The Zoological Society of London says we need “A five-fold increase in investment by Thames Water in tracing, identifying and remedying misconnections in the next AMP period 2020 – 2025.“

Thames Water has its new 5 year Business Plan out for consultation now. Sadly it says it only wants to treble their investment in stopping sewage reaching our rivers. They want to know what we think.

We think they need to increase their misconnection-busting. We want them to sort out 1,000 polluting outfalls between 2020-2025, not 600. We have until the 29th of April to speak up.

The Moselle in Lordship Recreation Ground, polluted by misconnected plumbing

The Moselle in Lordship Recreation Ground, polluted by misconnected plumbing

As mentioned above it’s the Environment Agency that set Thames Water the low target of rectifying 200 polluting outfalls between 2015 and 2020. This means there is already a waiting list of dirty drains that won’t be touched until 2020. Currently there are 332 outfalls polluting rivers waiting to be cleaned up. This is an unrelenting wave of pollution and our rivers can’t cope.

Once people have had their say Thames Water has to get its draft Business Plan to Ofwat by September 2018. Ofwat publishes its decision on all the water companies’ plans in March 2019. Sending the email tells them all we want much more done to stop river pollution.

Part of London Waterkeeper’s Riversides campaign

Ofwat, EA - set higher targets for the sake of London's rivers


Dear Environment Agency and Ofwat,

In Thames Water's recently submitted Business Plan it proposed a 2.5x increase in tackling the number of river polluting surface water outfalls (PSWOs) between 2020-25. This isn't enough.
As the regulators of the water industry we call on you to defend London's rivers and instruct Thames Water to increase by 5x the efforts to reduce the number of polluting outfalls, compared to the current Business Plan. This would set the target at 1,000.
At the moment, Thames Water has a highly effective team which investigates and rectifies this problem. Unfortunately it is just too small. With a 5x boost to resources many more rivers will be improved.

We need action because all of London's rivers fail the Water Framework Directive. These polluted rivers flow through public parks, putting health at risk and making rivers off-limits to local people when instead they should be able to enjoy them. The Environment Agency's WISER document doesn't give a high enough priority to the pollution of urban rivers by outfalls, particularly in London, and so lets them down.

Research by the Zoological Society of London has calculated that there are more than 1,000 PSWOs just in London (Tackling Pollution in London's Rivers 2017). In addition the Environment Agency has almost 200 drains on its waiting list. Sometimes it has been as high as 300.

We need decisive and effective action and look to you, the regulators. You have a legal duty to protect our rivers from pollution.

This opportunity to significantly improve the health of London's rivers only happens once every 5 years, please take it.

Yours sincerely,

**your signature**

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