Water tap

Don’t let London go dry, warns Assembly

06 June 2019

Today, the London Assembly drew attention to the effects of climate change on the capital’s water supplies. 


The Assembly called for a new reservoir to shore-up supplies and wants Londoners to be informed about water usage and how to avoid water wastage. 


Leonie Cooper AM, who proposed the motion said:  


“A new reservoir for London will ensure that, in the face of an extreme climate emergency, our city continues to have enough water to be healthy, clean and safe.


“The Environment Agency has warned that the south-east of England could run out of water in as little as 25 years, so we need to be planning for additional water resources now. Water companies also need to really step up and cut leaks, plus enable Londoners to use less water in their day-to-day lives.


“I am calling on OfWat and the Environment Agency to grant permission for Thames and Affinity Water to construct the Abingdon Reservoir as soon as possible, as it is the most effective and environmentally-friendly option on the table to increase the available water resources for London.


“The Mayor should also use his influence to lobby Thames Water and Affinity Water for a rapid and scaled-up smart meter and water-efficient device rollout across London, alongside an awareness-raising campaign, informing Londoners about how they can reduce their water usage”.



The full text of the motion is:


This Assembly notes the increasingly urgent need to secure London’s water supply. With an estimated population growth of two million, urgent warnings from the Environment Agency that England could face severe water shortages within 25 years due to climate change and the increasing likelihood of droughts in the immediate future, the need for a sustainable solution is paramount.


Londoners consume on average 149 litres of water per person per day, around 5 per cent above the national average, and we recognise calls from Waterwise, echoed by the Environment Agency, for a target of 100 litres per person per day.


We note the Mayor’s role in securing London’s resilience against climate change risks, and therefore call on him to lobby Thames Water and Affinity Water for a rapid and scaled-up smart meter and water-efficient device rollout across London; accompanied by an awareness raising campaign informing Londoners about the need to, as well as how to, reduce their water usage.


This Assembly notes that both Thames Water and Affinity Water have been working together to meet the challenge of maintaining London’s supply. However, demanding leakage targets must be met, and we call on both companies to meet and exceed OFWATs targets to cut leaks by 15 per cent 2020/25.


Even with leak reduction and water efficiency improvements, a further solution to London’s water needs is required. This Assembly understands that a range of options have been considered to address the need for a long term, sustainable solution, but that many have unacceptable environmental consequences:


  1. Teddington Direct River Abstraction has been rejected by the Environment Agency, as the returned water is too warm and therefore ecologically damaging;
  2. Deephams Re-use has also been rejected, due to its adverse ecological impacts;
  3. Direct Transfer from the Severn to the Thames risks the transfer of Invasive
  4. Species to the upper Thames chalk streams and is therefore unacceptable; and
  5. Oxford Canal Transfer will not provide sufficient quantity, reliability and also may       have environmental impacts.


This Assembly calls on Thames Water and Affinity Water to continue to develop potential Canal Transfer schemes but notes that such schemes may not provide sufficient water in light of the changing climate. This Assembly further notes that the only scheme that will provide a reliable, sufficient and sustainable source of water is the Abingdon Reservoir.


This Assembly calls upon OfWat and the Environment Agency to grant permission and Thames and Affinity Water to construct the Abingdon Reservoir as soon as is practicable, with completion no later than 2037, to ensure that Londoners continue to have a sufficient supply of wholesome water, and ecological impacts on the Thames, Lee and the chalk streams that feed them are minimised.

Notes to editors

  1. Watch the full webcast
  2. The motion was agreed by 16 for, to 1 against.
  3. Leonie Cooper AM, who proposed the motion, is available for interviews. 
  4. As well as investigating issues that matter to Londoners, the London Assembly acts as a check and a balance on the Mayor.

For media enquiries, please contact Alison Bell on 020 7983 4228.  For out of hours media enquiries, call 020 7983 4000 and ask for the London Assembly duty press officerNon-media enquiries should be directed to the Public Liaison Unit on 020 7983 4100.

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