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UK to Get Its First Desalination Plant


By Mat Conway
Community Green Tips Grow News
July 22, 2007


During some of the wettest weather that Britain has seen in years the government
has just granted approval for the UK’s first desalination plant.

One of the staples of western society is clean water. Having it on demand is not
just a luxury but is important for the health of the population. There have not,
in the past, been worries about whether or not there will be enough water to
drink in London and the south of England. Instead water shortages have meant
cutting back on such things as washing cars or watering your garden.

But as the climate continues to change there are worries that this may not be
the case in the future. The new plant, to come online in 2009, will supply 140
million litres of clean drinking water every day – that’s enough for not much
fewer than one million people. That water will be taken from the Thames Estuary,
containnig a third as much salt as normal sea water. Thames Water hope to run
the plant off of renewable sources, probably biodiesel.

Government approval

The plant, being built in Beckton in east London is expected to run for 40% of
the time over the next 25 years. The initial construction costs are to be on the
order of £200 million.

Originally the plans by Thames Water were rejected by Ken Livingston, the Mayor
of London. He asked instead that they company should address the problems of
leakage within the capital which accounts for almost a third of the water produced.

He told the planning inquiry: "In my view, given the colossal amount of clean,
purified water currently leaking from London pipes - a staggering 915,000,000
litres every single day - and the pressing water scarcity in the city, this is
the most important issue of my second term as Mayor of London."

But this was later overturned by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural
Affairs and the Department of Communities and Local Government following a
public enquiry.

Richard Aylard, director of external affairs and sustainability at Thames Water,
said: "The desalination plant is a vital part of our plans to secure future
water supplies to the capital."

Concerns

The plant has been greeted by most environmentalists with scepticism and rightly
so. The desalination plant uses more energy than conventional water plants and
it is not the way to tackle water shortages in the UK.

There are far better ways, for a start 6.5 times the amount of water produced by
the plant is lost from leaking pipes every day. In the long term fixing this
would be a far better solution both to meet water demands and for the environment.

The United Kingdom, as seen in the last few weeks, is not a dry country, there
should never be a need for any desalination. Fifty percent of all clean, highly
treated drinking water is used for flushing toilets and washing clothes. By
harvesting rain water we could cut the amount of water that needs to be taken
from rivers by half.

“The government should instead conduct a bigger, strategic review of people's
water usage and work to reduce demand and leakage, introduce metering in homes
and encourage residents to install water-saving technology,” said Rob Oates from
the World Wildlife Fund.

So during a time in which the executives of Thames Water got a 66% pay rise
maybe we should be focussing more on our own usages and the company’s practices
instead of worrying about hose pipe bans.

 

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