Mayor denies Thames desalination plant

Mayor of London Ken Livingstone has blocked proposals by Thames Water to build the UK's first desalination plant on the grounds that it is too energy intensive.

The £200 million plant had been planned near Barking in east London (see related story) and Thames Water had said it would play a key role in guaranteeing water supplies to customers during drought periods.

However, the Mayor concluded that the development was not in line with the “sustainable management of water supply resources in London.” This policy seeks to meet water supply needs in a sustainable manner through methods such as minimising use of treated water and reducing leakage. Such an energy intensive method of producing water as desalination was considered contrary to this objective.

Responding to this news, a Thames Water spokesman said the company was very disappointed and studying the reasons given for rejecting it. “There are a number of factors which make this a crucial requirement for London. The city already receives less rainfall per head than places like Madrid and Istanbul, and climate change is likely only to increase local demand during increasingly hot and dry summers.”

Climate change is caused by rising emissions of CO2, particularly as a result of energy intensive applications. An energy intensive desalination plant therefore, is likely to add to the problem.

Liberal Democrat London Assembly Environment Spokeperson, Mike Tuffrey, said: “Before Thames Water embarks on such an ambitious project they need to reduce leakages and reduce demand for piped water or we are just storing up problems for the future. The desalination plant would require enormous amounts of energy to convert salt water to pure water and this could leave lasting damage on the environment.”

“Simply increasing the supply of water, whether through flooding parts of the countryside for new reservoirs or through building energy intensive desalination plants, has significant environmental impacts.”

By David Hopkins

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