Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Water, Water, Everywhere

Nor any drop to drink.

Due to be opened in 2009, the new Desalination Plant down in Beckton opened today, 2nd June 2010. Fresh clean water is one of the most basic of our needs, and in places like London where it is on tap it can be taken for granted. Until that is, it’s not there any more. There have been fears for some time now that London could experience severe water shortages. It doesn’t rain here as much as you might think.
So, do we greet this new facility as a positive or negative addition to our infrastructure. Well, it is certainly a back-up for times of extreme conditions but not everybody is happy about it. The Environment Agency said:

"Although the Beckton desalination plant will help to provide London with secure water supplies during times of drought and peak demand, we all must do more to reduce water consumption. The Environment Agency believes that metering should be rolled out to households in water-stressed areas. The water industry must also continue to manage leakage from its network of pipes."

Well yes, as Darren Johnson points out:

"The Beckton desalination plant has the capacity to extract 140 million litres a day from the Thames, which is enough to supply 1 million people. Currently 435 million litres per day are lost in leakages."

Hmmm, but if they dug all the roads up at once to repair the pipes the City would grind to a halt, would it not? There are also fears about the amount of energy the plant requires. Be all that as it may, there are clearly some people who just waste water like there is no tomorrow. The difference between the water bills at council run allotment sites and leased sites is testament to this.

The point here is this: currently water meters are voluntary. So, only those people, and I know a few who have done this, who don’t use much water are going to sign up because they know it will reduce their Water Rates. There is no incentive whatsoever for a wasteful household, or one that uses a lawn sprinkler all day every day, to opt for a water meter.

Given that our water supplies are a shared resource there must come a time when water meters are made compulsory and that may be sooner rather than later.


  1. Roger Backhouse9:40 am, June 03, 2010

    And there are those morons who having paved over their front and back gardens can then be seen hosing down the paving at all too frequent intervals.

    Don't bother, it'll never grow again.

    Roger Backhouse

  2. I thought that most of us in Redbridge live in an area served by Essex & Suffolk Water, and that our water comes from Northumbria!


  3. Some of Redbridge comes under Essex & Suffolk Water but I'm not sure it is "most".

    Judging by this map and that Ilford is pretty much to the west of Bishop's Stortford by longitude I'd say most come under Thames Water.

  4. Well, B21, I hope that none of Redbridge is under water......

    I seem to recall that in the old Borough of Ilford part was served by one water board, and part by another. I believe the dividing line may have been Eastern Avenue, and the Boards serving the area to the south and to the north may have been called "Essex" and "Metropolitan" respectively in those days.

  5. When the houses in the north of the borough were built in the late 1920's and early 1930's the domestic water supplies were taken from the nearest high-pressure main, obviously.

    For many houses this was indeed the Essex supply but, closer to the Roding Valley, the supply came from what was the Metropolitan Water Board, eventually to become part of Thames Water.

    I believe that there is a boundary somewhere near Barkingside High Street and at one time you could see EWB (Essex) stop-cocks on the pavements in one road and MWB in the next. Some of these metal plates still exist and when my children were at school there were organised 'treasure hunts' to spot them and other street signage.

  6. I recall reading some years ago that because of the decline of manufacturing industry in London since the War, which drew off masses of water, the London water table had risen alarmingly.

    I wonder if anyone else remembers this, and can explain what has changed to warrant this desalination plant (to be used only in times of drought, I heard tonight)?

  7. Wasn't this one of Ken's ideas?

  8. I think you will find he opposed it [the desalination plant] and that Boris gave the go ahead.

  9. Possibly - but according to Val Shawcross nothing has materialised yet from Boris, and he has only opened projects begun by Ken.

    Oh, well......