Thames Water

Thames Water
Thames Water
Type Private
Industry Water supply and sewerage services
Founded 1989
Headquarters Reading, Berkshire,
United Kingdom
Employees 4,600
Parent Kemble Water Ltd
Thames Water headquarters in Reading
Pumping Station in Walton-on-Thames
Pumping Station in Littleton
Sewage Treatment Works in Crossness
A Thames Water borehole into the chalk aquifer under the North Downs, England at Albury
Thames Water van

Thames Water Utilities Ltd, known as Thames Water, is the private utility company responsible for the public water supply and waste water treatment in large parts of Greater London, the Thames Valley, Surrey, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Kent, and some other areas of in the United Kingdom. Thames Water is the UK's largest water and wastewater services company, and supplies 2.6 Gigalitres of drinking water a day.

Thames Water is responsible for a range of water management infrastructure projects including the Thames Water Ring Main around London, Europe's largest wastewater treatment works[1] and the UK's first large-scale desalination plant.[2] Infrastructure proposals by the company include the £2.2 billion London Tideway Tunnels, and the proposed reservoir at Abingdon, Oxfordshire, which would be the largest enclosed reservoir in the UK.[3]

Thames Water is regulated under the Water Industry Act 1991 and is owned by Kemble Water Limited.



Thames Water can trace its history back to numerous earlier companies stretching back to the early 17th century:

1600s, 1610s Edmund Colthurst and Hugh Myddelton were the driving forces behind the New River Company and the New River, which provided an additional source of drinking water to London.
1850s Joseph Bazalgette's remediation of The Great Stink provided the company with much of London's present Victorian sewerage infrastructure and several listed buildings within its portfolio of sites. Also in the 1850s, Dr John Snow's identification of the 1854 Broad Street cholera outbreak provided a stimulus to the better treatment of sewage.
1973 The Thames Water Authority was founded, under the terms of the Water Act 1973, and took over the following water supply utilities and catchment area management bodies:[4]
1989 Thames Water was privatised as Thames Water Utilities Limited, with the transfer of its regulatory, river management and navigation responsibilities to the National Rivers Authority, which later became part of the Environment Agency.[5] The company was listed on the London Stock Exchange and was a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index.
2001 Thames Water plc was acquired by the German utility company RWE.[6] Following several years of criticism about failed leakage targets, RWE announced on 17 October 2006 that it would sell Thames Water to Kemble Water Limited for £ 4.8 billion (since Thames Water had a pro forma net debt of £3.2 billion, this implied an enterprise value of £8.0 billion).
Dec 2006 The sale from RWE to Kemble went ahead.[7] Kemble is a consortium led by an investment fund run by the Australian Macquarie Bank. Australian investment funds already have interests in South East Water and Mid Kent Water.
2007 The company re-focused its efforts on improving its operational performance and announced the largest-ever capital investment (£1 billion) of any UK water company.[8]
2008 The company found itself involved in a controversial redevelopment plan for the Bath Road Reservoir, in its home town of Reading. An appeal against Reading Borough Council's rejection of the plan was dismissed by the planning inspector in January 2011.[9]


Every day, Thames Water supplies 2.6 gigalitres (2.6 × 109 litres) of potable tap water from 100 water treatment works through 32,000 kilometres (20,000 mi) of managed water mains to 8.7 million customers across London and the Thames Valley.[10] It likewise removes and treats 2.8 gigalitres (2.8 × 109 litres) of wastewater from 13.8 million customers through 70,000 km (43,000 mi) of managed sewerage mains to 349 sewage treatment works across an area of South England [10]


Up to 2006, Thames Water was repeatedly criticised for the amount of water that leaked from its pipes by the industry regulator Ofwat and was fined for this. In May 2006 the leakage was nearly 900 megalitres per day and in June that year Thames Water missed its target for reducing leakages for the third year in a row.[11] Also in June 2006 the firm announced a 31% rise in pre-tax profits to £346.5m. Jeremy Pelczer, Thames Water's former chief executive, noted that:

In the face of a challenging year for Thames Water and the whole sector, we are pleased to deliver a good set of results.

The Consumer Council for Water, a customers' group, accused Thames Water for continuing to miss their targets for the past five years. According to Consumer Council spokesman Andrew Marsh,:

They [Thames Water] are making big profits and there's a credibility gap between making large profits and asking customers to save water. People are paying more for their water bills and have every right to expect what they are paying for, which is a service that includes all the benefits the company has promised to deliver.

In July 2006, instead of a fine, which would have gone "to the exchequer" the company was required to spend an extra £150 million on repairs.[12] By 2007, the company stated that it had reduced its daily loss through leaks by 120 megalitres to an average of 695 megalitres per day.[13] For 2009-10 Ofwat reported leakage was 668.9 Ml/day.[14] In its price control determination for the period 2010 to 2015, Ofwat did not allow the funds needed to finance a significant further reduction in leakage and used the assumption that leakage would be 674 Ml/day in 2010-11 and 673 Ml/day from 2011-12.[15]


In 2004, Thames Water supplied rust-coloured water to residents of Spencers Wood and Shinfield, nr Reading, Berkshire and was fined £24,000.[16]

In September 2007, 5 km of the River Wandle was polluted. In January 2009, Thames Water pleaded guilty and was "fined £125,000 and ordered to pay £21,335 in clean-up and investigation costs".[17] In February 2010, on appeal, the fine was found to be "manifestly excessive" and was reduced to £50,000.[18]


  1. ^ Bye-bye big stink Beckton in Focus, The Newham Mag, London Borough of Newham
  2. ^ Thames Water Desalination Plant, Beckton
  3. ^ "Need for reservoir 'not proven'". 5 January 2007. Retrieved 12 February 2011. 
  4. ^ The Thames Water Authority Constitution Order 1973
  5. ^ A whole world sold on sell-offs Guardian, 22 November 2000
  6. ^ Thames to agree £4.3bn RWE takeover Independent, 25 September 2000
  7. ^ Macquarie buys Thames Water in £8bn deal Telegraph, 17 October 2006
  8. ^ Thames Water in £1bn leaks plan BBC News, 29 June 2007
  9. ^ "Bath Road reservoir homes appeal rejected after inquiry". BBC News. 15 January 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-09. 
  10. ^ a b Barnsnape GIS Foundation at Thames Water
  11. ^ a b c Thames Water misses leak target BBC News, 22 June 2006
  12. ^ Thames Water escapes leakage fine BBC News, 4 July 2006
  13. ^ "BBC NEWS". 26 November 2007. Retrieved 12 February 2011. 
  14. ^ "Service and delivery – performance of the water companies in England and Wales 2009-10 - Supporting information" (PDF). Ofwat. 2010-10-27. p. 46. Retrieved 2011-02-12. 
  15. ^ "Future water and sewerage charges 2010-15: Final determinations" (PDF). Ofwat. 2010-11-26. pp. 50–52. Retrieved 2011-02-12. 
  16. ^ Thames Water fined for supplying dirty water Swindon Advertiser 24 November 2006
  17. ^ Britain’s largest water company prosecuted for 5km river pollution, Environment Agency, February 2009; retrieved on 5 February 2009.
  18. ^ Thames Water fine for toxic spill in River Wandle cut BBC News, 15 February 2010

External links

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