Thames Water to invest £1.6 billion following criticism over sewage discharges

Thames Water has announced that it will invest £1.6 billion over the next two years to cut sewage discharges, following recent heavy criticism.

The money will be spent on sewage treatment works and sewer networks.

The development comes a week after Environment Secretary Therese Coffey demanded that water companies share their plans on improving Britain’s water infrastructure.

Last month, Oxford City Council unanimously passed a motion calling for Thames Water to be taken into public ownership.

A map published on Thames Valley’s website in January appeared to show that Oxfordshire was one of the areas most affected by sewage discharges.

The map – from January 2023 – suggested that Oxfordshire was particularly affected by sewage discharges

Thames Water hope that the new investment will help it achieve its pledge to halve its total yearly discharge by 2030.

This commitment includes an 80% reduction in discharges in particularly sensitive areas.

Around 45,000 people in West Oxfordshire are expected to benefit from a £15 million upgrade to the Witney Sewage Treatment Works.

Elsewhere, London’s Beckton Sewage Treatment Works – the largest of its kind in Europe – will be upgraded at a cost of £145 million, while a site in Chesham will be given a cash boost of £16.4 million.

The announced level of spending is more that double what Thames Water invested over the previous two years.

Sarah Bentley joined Thames Water as CEO in 2020 Credit: ITV News Meridian

Sarah Bentley, Chief Executive of Thames Water, said: “The discharge of untreated sewage is unacceptable, and we are committed to tackling this problem.

“We are investing record sums in upgrading our sewer systems and treatment works and are striving every day to reduce the discharge of untreated sewage into our rivers.

“However, there are no quick fixes. Population growth will increase the strain on our sewage network and treatment centres.

“And because of climate change, the south east of England is experiencing heavier downpours, which can overwhelm some sewage treatment works.

“The scale of the challenge demands urgent and systemic reform with a shared undertaking from all stakeholders.”