November 2009 - 20 years since privatisation

Last reviewed:

Thames Water Utilities Limited was set up by the Government when the water sector in England and Wales was privatised in 1989.

We inherited a rickety, leak-ridden Victorian network. It's still creaking in parts and there’s a lot of work still to do, but we have made massive improvements after investing £10bn over the past 20 years.

As a result of hard work and spending wisely, particularly since 2006 when the company came under new ownership and adopted a 'back-to-basics' approach, our operational performance is better than ever.

Here are some more of Thames Water's highlights from the past 20 years:

  • In 2008/09 100 per cent of our sewage sludge was put to beneficial use - generating 14% of the firm's electricity need in 2008 and/or being recycled as agricultural fertiliser.
  • In 2008 Thames Water became the first UK utility to receive the Carbon Trust Standard for making tangible cuts in carbon emissions (7% below 2005 levels) rather than simply offsetting.
  • In 2008 work started on the Beckton desalination plant in East London. Set to be ready for use in 2010 and the first of its kind in mainland Britain, it will provide water for up to one million people in the event of a drought. It will run on renewable energy - in the form of used cooking oil.
  • Thirteen breeds of fish have returned to the Thames since 1990 as its water quality has improved. There are currently 125 varieties in the river. Seahorses have returned and dolphins and seals are now more common further upstream.
  • In 1997 £500m was spent building sewage sludge incinerators at Crossness and Beckton sewage works to generate electricity. In 1998 Thames Water stopped disposing of sludge at sea.
  • In 1994 London's £250m, 50-mile (80km) Ring Main - Britain-s longest tunnel - was opened to supply 1.3bn litres of water a day to Londoners. Extensions to the north and south, boosting transfer capability by 500m litres-a-day, will be completed in 2010.

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