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Livingstone in row over Olympic water crisis claims

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WATER SHORTAGES could hit London's Olympics unless mayor Ken Livingstone reverses his rejection of plans for a £200M desalination plant, Thames Water warned this week.

ontinued rejection of the plant would also contradict information in London's Olympic bid file, it said.

Thames Water chief executive Bill Alexander said population growth and increasingly scarce water resources meant a desalination plant was the only way to guarantee water supplies for the Olympics.

But in April, Livingstone over-ruled Newham Borough Council's decision to allow Thames planning permission for the 150M litres/day reverse osmosis desalination plant at Beckton (NCE 21 April).

Alexander said the plant was vital for the Olympics.

'A desalination plant is absolutely essential to guarantee supply. It was a fundamental part of the Olympic bid and we are working on convincing the mayor that we have to build it, ' he said in an exclusive interview with NCE.

The project is mentioned in London's offi cial bid to stage the 2012 Games.

'Due to increasing demand for water and the predicted impact of climate change, innovative sustainable solutions are being put in place to ensure continued safe and reliable water supplies, ' says London's Olympic Candidature file.

'One example is the planned 150M litres/day desalination plant to treat brackish water from the Thames Estuary at Beckton, close to the Lea Valley. This is a first in the UK and will be operational from 2007, ' it adds.

But Livingstone's offi ce this week stood by the decision to reject the planning application.

'The candidate file mentions the desalination plant as planned, but nowhere does it say it is essential for the water supply needs of the Games in 2012, ' said a spokesperson for Livingstone.

'The mayor has made it clear that he feels the environmental costs of Thames Water's planned desalination plant far outweigh the benefi ts and that it is certainly not a requirement for delivering a successful Games.' he spokesperson said ivingstone wanted Thames to focus more on reducing leaks which wasted millions of litres of water. More could be done to reduce water consumption.

Thames Water said that reducing leakage would not be enough to meet future water demand on its own.

It said that the plant was the only way to meet medium term demand for water during prolonged dry spells as London's population continued to grow.

The planning application for the desalination plant assumed there would also be progress on leakage reduction, it added.

Plans are under way for a new reservoir in Oxfordshire to meet long term needs but this would not come online for 15 to 20 years .

'We need a desalination plant to absolutely guarantee supply. I would not want to sit in a stadium and watch an event if that plant is not built, ' said Alexander.

INFOPLUS For the latest on the Olympic construction programme go to www. construct2012. co. uk

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