Thames Water has installed its first eel screens as part of an extensive project to help stocks of the critically endangered species recover.
The company has installed the equipment at its advanced water treatment works in Walton, south-west London.
The £6.5m screens help the eels and elvers avoid being drawn in to Walton’s reservoirs from the Thames during the abstraction process and allow the fish to continue their migration up and down the river.
Sophie Edwards, part of Thames Water’s environment team, said: “The screens at Walton are the first step in us meeting the requirements of the Eel Regulation (England and Wales) 2009, which apply to all water companies, and aim to protect and monitor this threatened species.
“The screens are part of 16 schemes we are working on, worth a total of £35m. They also include alternative measures to monitor eel populations through innovative measures such as citizen science.”
Amit Chakraborti, who managed the construction of the screens on behalf of Thames Water’s eight₂O alliance, said: “We’re installing at least 10 eel screens in total, at places like Farmoor, Datchet, Hampton, Surbiton and along the Lee Valley and the New River – everywhere we abstract large amounts of water and where there may be eels present.”
The Walton device features 11 screens suspended in the intake stream. The screens’ small mesh prevents the eels from passing through, while an auto-wash feature enables the screens to self-clean without hampering the flow of water into the treatment works.
Earlier this year, representatives from the Environment Agency, which enforces the Eel Regulation, and the Zoological Society of London, visited Walton to see the new screens in operation and learn about the challenges of their construction, which involved working from pontoons in the water.