Water is essential for everything we do - from having a drink, to washing our clothes, and flushing the loo. It’s also essential for a healthy environment and a prosperous economy. It’s our job to provide a reliable supply of safe drinking water to around 10 million household customers and 215,000 businesses in London and across the Thames Valley.
Many people think there is plenty of water in the UK, but the South East of England is one of its driest regions and London gets less rain than Rome, Dallas and even Sydney. Our water supplies are being stretched further and further as the number of people living in our area increases. We have to plan ahead, because the choices we make today will shape the water supply we can provide in the future.
We’ve developed a draft Plan, called the draft Water Resources Management Plan 2019, which sets out how we plan to provide a secure and sustainable supply of water for our customers over the next 80 years from 2020 to 2100. Watch the video to understand more about our draft Plan.
What is a Water Resources Management Plan?
Our draft Water Resources Management Plan sets out how we plan to provide a secure and sustainable supply of water for our customers over the next 80 years from 2020 to 2100. The steps we have followed to develop our draft Plan are:
1. How much water is available?
We forecast the amount of water we have available for water supply now and how it might change in the future.
2. How much water do we need?
We forecast how much water our customers need now and how it might change in the future.
3. Is there enough?
We compare how much water we have with what we will need, to see if there is enough water or a deficit.
4. What can we do about it?
If there is a deficit we look at options to manage demand for water and provide additional water.
5. How do we decide what to do?
Taking account of information such as cost, environmental impact and customers’ preferences we develop a programme of options to ensure we can provide a secure and sustainable water supply.
Customer and stakeholder engagement:
Throughout the process we engage with our customers and stakeholders to seek their input and challenge to inform the development of the draft Plan.
We review our plan every year to ensure we are meeting targets and can continue to provide a reliable supply of water to our customers.
How much water do we need?
The number of people living and working in London and the Thames Valley, already one of the most densely populated parts of the country, is forecast to grow significantly. By 2045 we forecast that there will be around two million more people living in our area. And by 2100 we forecast that there will be over 15 million people living in our area and they will all need water.
How much water have we got?
The amount of water we can take from the environment for water supply is forecast to reduce due to changes in the climate and the need to protect the environment.
Is there enough?
We predict there will be a shortfall between the amount of water available and the amount we need unless we take action. The shortfall will start in the next 5 years and grow to around 360 million litres of water per day by 2045, equivalent to the amount needed by over two million people. The shortfall is forecast to continue to grow to over 860 million litres of water per day by 2100. The challenge is most severe in London but we also forecast a significant shortfall in Swindon and Oxfordshire region, and other parts of the Thames Valley.
There are also other factors which influence our plan including planning for more resilience to a severe drought, and taking a coordinated approach with other companies in the South East.
What options are there to tackle the problem?
We looked at more than 200 options to help to fill the shortfall between the amount of water available and the amount we need. These include ways to make the most of the water supplies that we already have available, called demand management options, and new sources of water, called water supply options.
How do we decide on the right mix of options?
We use models and tools to help us decide on the right combination of options to plug the water deficit. Whilst cost is an important factor, we also considered other factors such as environmental and social impacts, flexibility, resilience to cope with future changes and our customers’ priorities.
What is the proposed draft plan?
First and foremost we need to make sure we use the water that we have efficiently. We have set ambitious targets to reduce leakage from our water pipes and our customers’ own private pipes, install more smart water meters and give our customers practical help and advice to reduce the water they use. This reflects what our customers told us.
In the next 5 years we plan to:
- reduce leakage by a minimum of 15 per cent by 2025. This means we’ll reduce the amount of water lost from 646 to 549 million litres every day, or from 25 to 22 per cent of the amount of water that we put into supply.
- install a further 400,000 smart meters in customers’ homes saving 49 million litres of water.
- visit nearly 300,000 customers’ homes and businesses to promote water efficiency saving around 24 million litres of water every day.
However this won’t be enough and we’ll also need to develop new sources of water. There is no single new water supply option which can solve the shortfall so our proposed approach includes a combination of options.
In the next 5 years we plan to develop new groundwater sources in London, buy water from other organisations who have spare licensed water and make preparations for a new scheme to take more water from the River Thames above Teddington Weir in west London.
In the longer term we will need to develop more water sources and our draft plan includes a reservoir in Oxfordshire, a transfer via the Oxford Canal and water reuse plant in East London.