Thames Water Desalination Plant

Thames Water Desalination Plant

The first water desalination plant in the United Kingdom, the Thames Water Desalination Plant,[1], or Beckton Desalination Plant, has been built in Beckton, east London for Thames Water by Acciona Agua and was opened by HRH Duke of Edinburgh on 2 June 2010. It is the first plant of its kind to be built in the UK and will provide up to 150 million litres of drinking water each day – enough for nearly one million people – making the prospect of future water restrictions less likely.[2][3]



Much of Thames Water's supply area is classed by the Environment Agency as 'seriously water stressed', with customers in London, Swindon and Oxford particularly at risk of water restrictions during extended periods of dry weather.

Building a new treatment plant that treats water from the brackish waters of the River Thames, turning into clean, fresh drinking water, will help reduce the risk of water restrictions and ensure that severe water rationing is never required.[4]

The plant will be used to convert brackish water from the River Thames into clean drinking water during times of drought or extended periods of low rainfall, or to maintain supplies in the event of an incident at other water treatment facilities.

Architects Broadway Malyan designed the plan to RIBA Stage D and acted as expert witness at public enquiry.

Facts and figures

  • The plant will produce 150 million litres of water a day, enough to supply 400,000 households or 900,000 people.
  • The plant will run on 100 percent renewable energy.
  • The plant will take water from the tidal Thames during the last three hours of the ebb tide and remove the salt using a reverse osmosis process.
  • The plant will mainly be used in times of drought or to support existing supplies if needed.
  • The treated water will be transferred from Beckton (East London) to North East London in a new pipeline, 14 km long. The pipeline can hold 14 million litres of water and has a diameter of 1.2 metres.
  • The total cost of the scheme, including the pipeline, will cost £250 million.
  • The route of the pipe has been chosen to avoid residential areas and cause minimum disturbance.
  • All construction sites will be environmentally screened and all areas returned to their original condition on completion of the work.[5]


Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone criticised the plant in 2007, calling it a "misguided and a retrograde step in UK environmental policy." Livingstone, arguing that the plant was expensive and unnecessary, said that Thames Water should instead focus on reducing waste caused by leakage and that people should be encouraged "to use less water, not more."[6]


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