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Pump policy vital for London groundwater

DEEP BASEMENTS, foundations and tunnels throughout London are in imminent danger from rising groundwater levels unless urgent action is taken, according to a confidential report submitted to Government by Thames Water.

The utility company sent the report to London minister Nick Raynsford last month after carrying out research into the problem for almost a year. In the report it claims that underground structures across the city will be seriously damaged in the next few years unless water

levels are managed by drilling up to 40 boreholes.

'Foundations are already shifting. Everyone has agreed that there is no alternative. This could cause serious problems, particularly for London Underground, as its escalators will start packing in,' said a Thames Water spokesman.

Speaking to NCE on Tuesday, Raynsford said: 'We've had a series of meetings. We have not been hanging about on this issue because it is serious. The objectives will be to put a practical programme in place that will look at tackling the problem in the most cost effective way.'

Thames claims that 70M litres of water a day will have to be abstracted from beneath London by 2000. Groundwater levels are rising by 2m to 3m a year as a result of heavy water-using industries being closed down in the last 30 years.

The report says much of this water has a high mineral content and would be unpotable without extensive treatment. It claims that this would be unviable without government funding.

'Where there is a clear drinking water benefit we will gladly find it, but we are keen not to end up footing the whole bill,' said the spokesman.

Environmental company Envirologic is understood to be putting forward an alternative scheme for supplying the water cheaply to hospitals. But Thames claims such a commercial arrangement could lead to the problem re-emerging if hospitals closed down or became more water efficient.

Thames is now calling for government-backed research to determine the most effective pumping locations across London.

Matthew Jones

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