Thames Water 'pumped 72bn litres of sewage into the Thames' in last three years

Thames Water 'pumped 72bn litres of sewage into the Thames' in last three years

Thames Water has a monopoly on water services in the Greater London area


Wild swimmers look away now, because Thames Water has reportedly been pumping billions of litres of sewage into the River Thames over the last couple of years.

The firm, which provides water to the vast majority of people in London and the surrounding areas, released about 72bn litres of sewage discharge into the river since 2020, new figures reveal.

If you’re struggling to picture it, think of it this way: that’s roughly the same as 29,000 Olympic swimming pools full to the brim with effluent.

The data was revealed by an environmental information request by the Liberal Democrat party, which called for water firms to be more transparent with their data on sewage spills.

As it stands, firms like Thames Water have no legal requirement to report how much sewage they release into rivers and estuaries, only the number of hours that it was released.

Campaigners say this doesn’t tell us how much sewage is in England’s rivers which, given the amount of wildlife they support, might be quite a good thing for us to know.

The only known monitors which actually measure how much sewage goes into rivers are at select locations on the Thames, and were only installed when the water company started building an upcoming “super sewer” project called the Thames Tideway.

However, those sensors don’t cover the entire network, meaning it’s likely that far more sewage was released than was actually measured.

The newly released figures show that at least 14.3bn litres of sewage was released into the Thames last year, while a whopping 32bn litres was released in 2021.

Mogden, an area near Twickenham in west London which contains a nature reserve and popular outdoor swimming spots, was worst affected, with a barrage of 17.1bn litres flowing into the river around there.

Munira Wilson, Liberal Democrat MP for Twickenham, said: “These horrifying revelations are proof that Thames Water needs to be ripped up.

“It is outrageous that Conservative ministers continue to sit on their hands and let Thames Water get away with this.

“The government is standing idly by whilst our rivers are poisoned and water firm execs pocket millions.

“The era of water firms putting profit before the environment must come to an end.

“These water firms are committing environmental crimes which are destroying our rivers and wildlife habitats, all whilst pocketing eye-watering sums of money.”

Bad news for wildlife, eh?Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

A Thames Water spokesperson said the company was upgrading its sewage works at Mogden, and carrying out further improvements across its network of sewers.

That includes the Thames Tideway super sewer, a £4bn project designed to capture the vast majority of untreated sewage currently flowing into the river on a regular basis.

The spokesperson added: “We refute any allegations of a cover up, this is factually untrue and would be misleading to state otherwise.

“Our EDM monitoring equipment cannot measure volumes and was not designed to do so. Transparency is really important to Thames Water and we respond in full to EIR requests in accordance with our legal obligations.”

How to join the indy100's free WhatsApp channel

Sign up to our free indy100 weekly newsletter

Have your say in our news democracy. Click the upvote icon at the top of the page to help raise this article through the indy100 rankings.

The Conversation (0)