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Thames Water launches major public consultation on the future of water supply in the South East of England

13 December 2022

  • Water is essential for life but regional water resources are under pressure and this will only increase with time
  • This consultation shares information on predicted future water supply shortages and the choices that need to be made now to provide a resilient water supply for future generations
  • Public consultation opens on Tuesday, 13 December 2022, and ends on Tuesday, 21 March 2023.

Thames Water is holding a public consultation on a proposed strategic plan for future water supply, the draft Water Resources Management Plan 2024, which opens today. The draft plan sets out the ‘big picture’ on how Thames Water intends to plan ahead for the next 50 years. It explains how the water company will provide a secure and sustainable water supply for the increasing population in the South East region; protect against the growing risk of drought and water shortages; and, improve the environment. The consultation will run for fourteen weeks until 21 March 2023.

Substantial water shortages face the whole of the South East of England. The extreme heat and lack of water we experienced this summer is a clear indication of climate emergency first-hand. The predicted regional water demand is set to increase, with the number of people living and working in London and the Thames Valley forecast to grow significantly. Every day, Thames Water currently supplies around 2.6 billion litres of water to customers across London and the Thames Valley. This is enough to fill 1,000 Olympic sized swimming pools. The company forecasts that it will need an extra 1 billion litres of water every day for customers by 2075 to accommodate climate change and population growth.

The draft plan – which proposes investment of up to £13 billion between 2025 and 2050 - sets out strategic options to build in future resilience for the benefit of customers, their children, grandchildren and the environment. It spells out the challenges faced and the planned actions to maintain the balance between water supply and demand.

Even though the plan requires an ambitious reduction in leakage, and for customers to help reduce consumption, new sources of water still need to be found. This plan considers options, including a new abstraction in Teddington supported by water recycling, a new reservoir in Oxfordshire, and schemes to share water across the South East including a new water transfer from the River Severn.

Across the region more than 1,400 options were considered to plug the shortfall between the amount of water in the region and the amount of water needed. Each option was assessed on water output, impact on the environment, carbon budget, delivery timeline and ability to build in future resilience.

Thames Water customers, community groups, businesses, academics, charities and other organisations are being invited to feedback on the draft Water Resources Management Plan. The consultation asks for feedback on the big decisions on the regional water challenges, including planning and building new water resources infrastructure that could take many years before they’re ready to provide water.

Thames Water has developed its plan by working collaboratively with Water Resources South East (WRSE) and neighbouring water companies to coordinate a regional response. This collaborative approach has allowed Thames Water to look beyond its boundary and play its part in supporting the regional plan in order to deliver the most benefit across the South East for the long term.

Nevil Muncaster, Strategic Resources Director at Thames Water, said: “Our plan sets out how we will meet the water resource challenge in the future through a combination of fixing leaks more rapidly, making the way that we use water more efficient and by investment in new infrastructure to meet future needs.

“Working together we can achieve this, and we call on government too, to recognise and support the urgent need for this nationally critical infrastructure as part of these plans. Projects like the Thames Tideway tunnel which is well on the way to delivering a long and lasting legacy for London and the Thames demonstrates that we have all the necessary skills to deliver major projects on time, to budget and with the community.”

Over the next 14 weeks, consultation events for the public will be taking place across the region including community information events in Cirencester, Abingdon, Richmond and Steventon as well as briefings.

Consultation feedback received will be carefully considered by the company. In June 2023, it will be sent to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs as part of Thames Water’s submission to the Government for approval of the draft Water Resources Management Plan 2024.

To access the consultation please go to

Further information:

Thames Water will be hosting the following events to find out more information about the consultation:

  • 16 January 2023 – Richmond, Old Town Hall
  • 20 January 2023 – Abingdon, Trinity Church
  • 9 February 2023 - Cirencester, Bingham Hall
  • 18 February 2023 – Steventon, Steventon Village Hall

Events will be hosted by a number of Thames Water employees and will run from 2pm – 8pm.

Thames Water will also host a series of pop-up events to support the consultation:

  • 18 January 2023 – Paddington Station – 11am to 7pm
  • 27 January 2023 – Reading, The Oracle Shopping Centre – 10am to 6pm
  • 1 February 2023 – Oxford, Westgate Shopping Centre – 10am to 6pm
  • 4 February 2023 – Swindon, The Brunel Shopping Centre – 10am to 6pm

Water Resources South East (WRSE) Plan and Consultation 2022/23

Over the past three years, under the umbrella of Water Resources South East (WRSE), Thames Water has been working to develop an overarching regional plan addressing our future water challenges. We’ve collaborated on this plan with our five neighbouring water companies in the South East as well as customers, stakeholders and other water-using sectors. We’ve ensured our draft Water Resources Management Plan 2024 reflects the wider WRSE regional plan, whilst at the same time focusing on our supply area only. You can find out more about WRSE and the regional plan here

Strategic Resource Options (SROs)

The draft plan includes the development of several new strategic resource options (SROs) that will serve the whole region. The SROs will deliver a more secure, sustainable and resilient water supply network, billions of pounds of investment, greater protection against the changing climate, less water being taken from our rivers and waterways, increased biodiversity, new jobs and apprenticeships, new opportunities to enjoy nature. The five strategic resource options included in Thames Water’s draft plan are a new river abstraction at Teddington; a new reservoir in Oxfordshire (SESRO); and three water transfers.

South East Strategic Reservoir Option (SESRO) - a new storage reservoir, would be built in the Upper Thames catchment, south west of Abingdon in Oxfordshire. The reservoir would be filled with water from the River Thames during periods of high river flow. When river levels drop or demand for water increases, water would be released back into the River Thames for re-abstraction downstream. This would help us protect supplies and manage future water quality issues created by a changing climate. It would also provide regional and local benefits, including environment and biodiversity improvements, public access and recreation, and mitigation of local flooding. This reservoir would supply water for Affinity Water, Southern Water and Thames Water customers. The regional-led work has shown that we need a reservoir of at least 100 Mm3. Planning consent for construction is planned by 2030 water would be available by 2040.

New river abstraction at Teddington - would be sited on the River Thames close to Teddington Weir. Abstracted water would be transferred via an existing underground tunnel to the Lee Valley reservoirs in North London. Highly treated recycled water would be conveyed by pipeline from Mogden sewage treatment works upstream of Teddington Weir to compensate for the additional water taken from the river to protect the environment and wildlife. Planning consent for construction is planned by 2030 water would be available by 2031.

The Severn to Thames Transfer (STT) - would transfer water from the North West and Midlands to the South East for use during a drought. This water would come from the River Severn itself, with Severn Trent Water and United Utilities providing additional sources of water if needed. The water would then be moved from the River Severn to the River Thames either by a new pipeline or by a combination of new pipeline and restoring the Cotswold canals. Ongoing work is being undertaken to enable the scheme to proceed if it’s required. Planning consent for construction is planned by 2040 with water available from 2050 in a phased manner. The scheme would supply water for Affinity Water, Southern Water and Thames Water customers.

The Thames to Affinity Transfer (T2AT) - would move water by pipeline from the River Thames to Affinity Water once a new source of water (such as SESRO, STT or a new water recycling scheme in East London) has been developed. In the draft regional plan the construction would be in two phases, the first up to 2040, with water available once the reservoir in Oxfordshire (SESRO) is built. The second phase would be up to 2050.

The Thames to Southern Transfer (T2ST) - would move water by pipeline from the River Thames to Southern Water once a new source of water (either SESRO or STT) has been developed. In the draft regional plan the planning consent and construction would take place through 2040, with water available once the new water sources are available.

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