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Thames accused of overstating water shortage to boost plant bid


THAMES WATER has exaggerated the water shortage to justify construction of a desalination plant on the Thames Estuary, a leading water engineer claimed last week.

The utilities company 'created an on-paper supply-demand balance gap [that] does not exist in reality', said independent consultant Colin Fenn.

He was giving evidence against Thames Water's plans to build a £200M, 140Ml/day desalination plant at Beckton.

Thames is appealing against London Mayor Ken Livingstone's decision to refuse planning approval in a public inquiry (News last week).

Fenn, one the Greater London Authority's expert witnesses, said: 'There has been only one short hosepipe ban in London since 1976, despite the occurrence of droughts in 1984, 1990-2, 1995-6, 2003 and 2005, and even though all 10 of the warmest years on record have occurred since 1990.' In autumn 2003 and summer 2005 there should have been supply deficits of 274Ml/day and 196Ml/day yet there were no restrictions, added Fenn.

'That Thames was able to marshal and supply water to meet unrestricted demand in both 2003 and 2005 suggests that the water actually available to them in the design dry year is greater than they report it to be, by an amount of at least 100Ml/ day, and possibly as much as 200Ml/day, ' he said.

Thames countered that in the last 80 years there had been four droughts leading to supply restrictions.

Fenn also attacked Thames' costing of water from the desalination plant.

'Thames has under-stated the true unit cost of water from the plant by presenting unit cost values calculated on the 140Ml/ day capacity of the scheme rather than on the intended output of the scheme - 60-69Ml/ day, ' Fenn said.

If water was produced at an average of 140Ml/day over 25 years, it would cost 58p/m3. But producing an average of 60Ml/ day, water would work out at 81p/m3.

If the plant was only used in drought years, average output would be 12Ml/day over 25 years, costing a massive £2.55/ m3, Fenn said.

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