LONDON Britain gave the green light on
Wednesday for a desalination plant on London's River Thames in
an effort to cope with climate change and get clean water to
the capital's booming population.
The plant, one of the biggest outside the water-starved
Middle East, will produce 140 million liters of drinking water
a day when it is up and running in 2010 as London's population
heads over the nine million mark.
Thames Water, which will run the 200-million-pound ($410
mln) plant near the Thames Barrier protecting London from tidal
surges, welcomed the decision and said it was one of a number
of key measures to guarantee the clean water future of the
"With pressures such as climate change and population
growth the plant is essential alongside our continuing progress
in reducing leakage and proposals for a new reservoir in
Oxfordshire," the company said.
Final political approval for the plant came after a
three-year battle with London mayor Ken Livingstone who had
argued that stopping the water leaking from London's
100-year-old network of pipes would be more effective.
In a terse statement, Livingstone said he was studying
details of the approval, which only came after Thames Water set
out in detail the circumstances under which the highly
energy-intensive plant would be used.
Thames Water said it had cut water leaks to 702 million
liters a day now from 915 million liters a day in 2004, the
plant would be used intermittently and only use biodiesel and
therefore be climate friendly.
But environment campaign group WWF rejected that argument.
"It is nonsense to imagine that London, or indeed anywhere
in the UK, needs a desalination plant to supply its freshwater
needs. What we really need to do is reduce leakage, which still
stands at 25 per cent," said WWF's Rob Oates.
"This is the UK, not Yemen, and it rains here a lot. If
some very simple technology were introduced to harvest and
store rainwater we could cut demand for water... by 50 per
More than half of Britain's domestic water usage goes
straight down the drain via baths, running taps and toilets.
Scientists say southeast England -- which suffered a major
drought last year with reservoirs running dry -- could become
water-stressed due to a combination of changed weather patterns
due to climate change and a rising population.
Watchdog Waterwise said Londoners use on average 165 liters
of water a day each against the national average of 150 liters.
This compares with averages of 107 liters/day in Belgium,
131 liters/day in Denmark, 200 liters/day in Norway and 360
liters/day in the United States.
"With only slight changes in behavior like reducing toilet
flushes, taking less time in the shower and not leaving the tap
running when brushing your teeth Londoners could easily cut
consumption by 30-40 liters a day," a spokesman said.