Desalination gets the all clear

The Thames Gateway desalination plant has been given the all clear after London mayor Boris Johnson withdrew his predecessor’s legal challenge.


Thames Water has welcomed the announcement this month by the new mayor of London, Boris Johnson, that he has withdrawn the legal challenge to the government’s decision to grant planning permission for the Thames Gateway desalination plant.


In 2004, Thames Water submitted a planning application to the London borough of Newham. Although the application was approved, Ken Livingstone, the then mayor of London, directed Newham to refuse it.


Thames Water appealed against the decision, and a public inquiry was held in 2006. The planning inspector dismissed the mayor’s arguments and recommended the project should go ahead. The government agreed, granting planning permission last year. Mayor Livingstone launched a legal challenge to the decision, which was due to reach the High Court in May 2008.


Thames Water CEO David Owens said that the news was a victory for common sense. ‘Our (recent) draft Water Resources Management Plan highlights how London’s rapidly growing population will be at increased risk of water restrictions in future droughts if we don’t have additional sources of water,’ he said.


‘The desalination plant is a vital part of our response to this situation, and we are committed to getting it built as quickly as possible so it is available to provide more safe, clean drinking water to Londoners by 2010. Desalination is a more energy intensive process than conventional water treatment processes, which is why we have committed to only running the plant when it is essential, and to providing 100 per cent of the power needed to run it from renewable energy,’ he added.


Work has begun on constructing the plant, in Beckton, east London, which is expected to be completed in late 2009. The plant, when operational, will produce around 140,000,000 litres a day, enough for 400,000 households, helping to guarantee the security of London’s future water supplies.


The desalination plant is being constructed on the north bank of the Thames in the London borough of Newham. It will be the first in London to take water from the tidal stretch of the Thames, removing salt from the water. The treated water will then be pumped through a new pipeline to a reservoir in Essex, ready for distribution to customers across north east London. The plant will be used mainly during times of drought.


The first desalination plant to be built in the UK was in Jersey, although the water supplied is for agricultural use only and is not potable.