Thames Water

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Thames Water Utilities Ltd, known as Thames Water, is a large private utility company. It supplies water and waste water treatment in most of Greater London, Luton, the Thames Valley, Surrey, Gloucestershire, north Wiltshire, far west Kent, and some other parts of England.

It was started in 1989 during privatisation of the water industry in England and Wales. The water is mostly sourced from the Thames as well as some other rivers and boreholes.

It is the biggest water and wastewater services company in the United Kingdom. It runs the Thames Water Ring Main around London, one of Europe's largest wastewater treatment works and the UK's first large-scale desalination plant—both at Beckton in east London—and the £4.2 billion Thames Tideway sewer currently under construction. It supplies 2.5 billion litres (550 million imperial gallons) of drinking water and treats 4.6 billion litres (1,000 million imperial gallons) of wastewater a day. It serves a population of 15.5 million people—about a quarter of the UK population—but its ageing infrastructure often leaks and causes pollution.

History[change | change source]

The New River was started in 1604 by Edmund Colthurst to carry fresh water from Hertfordshire into London. The business of the New River was taken over by the New River Company, officially founded by royal charter in 1619. This developed into the Thames Conservancy which started in 1857 when Joseph Bazalgette started building the London sewers.[1]

Thames Water plc was bought by the German utility company RWE in 2001.[2] They sold it for £8 billion to Kemble Water Holdings Ltd in 2006. This is owned by the Australian Macquarie Group. In 2017, Macquarie Group sold it to the Canadian pensions group OMERS and the Kuwait Investment Authority.[3] In 2022 it was losing money with current debt amounting to 80% of the value of the business. It was the most heavily indebted of England and Wales' water companies.[4] This problem was seen by the regulator Ofwat in December 2022 and there were discussions about a possible collapse and state bail-out.

In June 2018 regulators made Thames Water pay £65 million to customers among other problems because they failed to fix leaks.[5] In June 2023 leak levels were at their highest for five years. It was estimated to be losing 630 million litres (140 million imperial gallons) a day.[6] In July 2023 it was fined £3.3 million after it discharged millions of litres of undiluted sewage into the Gatwick Stream in Sussex and River Mole in Surrey.[7]

References[change | change source]

  1. Halliday, Stephen (2013). The Great Stink of London: Sir Joseph Bazalgette and the Cleansing of the Victorian Metropolis. The History Press. ISBN 978-0752493787.
  2. Hope, Christopher (19 February 2002). "Germany's RWE in frame for Thames Water owner Takeover bid for power giant sparks surge in share price". The Herald, Scotland. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
  3. Ambrose, Jillian (14 March 2017). "Macquarie sells off final stake in Thames Water". The Telegraph. Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  4. Jordan, Dearbail; King, Ben (29 June 2023). "Why is Thames Water in so much trouble?". BBC News. Retrieved 30 June 2023.
  5. Thames Water to pay back £65m to customers as part of penalty package The Guardian
  6. Laville, Sandra; Carrington, Damian (22 June 2023). "Thames Water pipe leaks at highest level in five years, FoI reveals". Guardian. Retrieved 30 June 2023.
  7. "Thames Water fined £3.3m over river sewage". BBC News. 2023-07-04. Retrieved 2023-07-04.