The Renewable Energy Centre today joins many environmental groups in the opposition against plans for the £200 million Thames Water desalination plant, when a third of their water supply is currently being lost through leakages.
Last Wednesday, the 18th July, the approved planning permission for the UK's largest desalination plant, to be built in Beckton, East London, was announced. The £200 million plant will convert water from the Thames into over 140 million litres of drinking water per day; in an attempt to provide a large enough supply for the city of London's rapidly growing population.
The proposal was initially rejected by London Mayor Ken Livingston, stating that the plant was a "step back in the fight against climate change" and that Thames Water should be instead investing into improving the leakage rate.
Thames Water leakage statistics are currently the worst in the country; around a third of their supply is wasted, amounting to around 915 million litres per day. However, Thames Water argues that it is already spending £500,000 a day on repairing leaks but this alone will not meet the gap in the demand for water.
Planning permission was finally granted last week by the Department of Environment, Rural Affairs and the Department of Communities and Local Government after a public enquiry.
However, approval was only given on the condition that the plant will only use a renewable source of energy, most likely bio diesel. Unlike many other forms of renewable energy such as solar, wind or wave, biofuels are in relatively short supply meaning that the bio diesel used by the desalination plant could be used for another more important project.
The Renewable Energy Centre describes the desalination process as taking the sea water, in this case the ebb tide of the Thames River, and pushing it through filters four times at a high pressure, often called reverse osmosis. Minerals are then added to ensure the PH is in line with potable drinking water regulations before its final stage of treatment and disinfection.
Desalination has proved to be a very energy consuming process and many argue that it will use twice as much energy as conventional treatment works, pumping out as much as 250,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.
The Renewable Energy Centre stated that instead of producing more potable water Thames Water should be looking at the source of the water shortage problem more closely. Londoners use on average 165 litres of water per day which is 15 litres more than the national average. Over half of water supplied to homes is used for flushing toilets and laundry, areas in which water use could easily be reduced.
Richard Simmons, Founder of The Renewable Energy Centre stated "We urge the government to reconsider the approval for this plant as it is highly inefficient to produce more potable water when home and businesses are wasting so much already. This money should be spent on educating homeowners and businesses about their water usage. All water supplied to homes is of drinkable quality but it is ridiculous that this water is then used for watering the garden, washing the car and flushing the toilet, when water collected for free using a rainwater harvesting system could be used instead, saving both water and money."
Any individuals making water efficiency improvements to their home or commercial property should make TheRenewableEnergyCentre.co.uk their first visit. It contains a fully comprehensive national and local directory of specialist products and suppliers in this arena, including a new section dedicated to Rainwater Harvesting with ideas for any budget. There are pages of advice and information on all areas of renewable energy which is particularly useful for property owners researching the possible options available to them and helping them make an informed decision.
The desalination plant is expected to begin operating in 2009, and is only expected to run in times of drought and extended periods of low rainfall over the next 25 years, which will produce on average enough water for over 400,000 homes in London per year.
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