The Consumer Council for Water today (13 September 2010) welcomed Thames Waters decision to open up for public consultation its plans for reducing the amount of sewage spilled into the River Thames.
The Consumer Council for Water has in the past repeatedly voiced concerns over the costs, benefits and affordability for customers of this so-called super sewer. David Bland, Chair of the Consumer Council for Water London and South East, said: There is no denying that something must be done to reduce the amount of raw sewage that is spilled into the River Thames if Thames Water is going to be able to meet very strict environmental regulations.
We support Thames Waters preferred route for the tunnel which goes by Abbey Mills, reducing overall tunnelling length by 9km. This is an option we first put forward to the company in 2007. The route significantly reduces environmental intrusion, costs over £700m less than the alternatives, and still achieves the environmental objectives set for the scheme.
However the costs of all elements of the Thames improvements have escalated so that, together with the Lee Tunnel and associated sewage treatment works, the average impact on customers bills could reach £90 a year by 2018. Three years ago the estimate was £37. Ofwat needs to consult on how these schemes should be financed.
Right now one in six water customers in England and Wales tell us that their water and sewerage bills are unaffordable. Coming up with the extra money to fund the Tideway Programme will be very difficult for many customers.
Giving water customers an opportunity to voice their opinions on such a big and expensive project is a positive step, and we would like to continue to see customers informed opinions being considered seriously when coming to decisions that will affect their water services and how much they are asked to pay.
We need to be sure that the investment is justified, can be done at the lowest realistic cost, represents true value for money in terms of the benefits it is able to deliver, and that the financial burden is fairly distributed.
We look forward to closer examination of these proposals and will give a full response to the consultation.