View through trees onto the River Thames crowded with swimmers, rowers and other boat users.

River users join forces to protest against Thames Water’s abstraction plans

Wild swimmers alongside rowers, anglers and other river users protested against Thames Water’s plans to abstract millions of gallons of water from the Thames and replace it with sewage effluent

Thames Water want to remove up to a third of the water from the Thames near Teddington Lock and pump it to storage reservoirs in North London. To maintain flow, they intend to replace the fresh water they remove with effluent from Mogden Sewage Treatment Works.

The company say the project is needed to guard against future water shortages and that it is the best value option out of the alternatives they had evaluated.

But last Saturday (9 September), hundreds of river users joined forces in a demonstration at the proposed abstraction point to say they disagree. Rowers, kayakers, outdoor swimmers, anglers, dragon boat paddlers and tow-path walkers came together to demand that Thames Water thinks again.

“This plan stinks!”

“Save our rivers!”

“Fix the leaks!”

The chants echoed up and down the river.

Local campaigner Ian McNuff, from Save Ham Lands and Rivers, told demonstrators that there are: “better and greener alternatives. They [Thames Water] need to work harder and find better solutions.”

Marlene Lawrence, founder of the local Teddington Bluetits river swimming group, which has more than 1,400 members, spoke about her love of river swimming and the joy it brings, and asked: “would you swim in Thames Water’s effluent?”

Other campaigners explained that not only will there be long-term damage to the river’s ecosystem and potential health implications for river users, the project will also require the construction of large concrete structures adjacent to the river and along the route of the pipeline bringing in the effluent. Parts of this will be built on protected nature reserve green spaces.

London Assembly member Hina Bokhari joined the protesters and said she, along with her parliamentary counterparts, would ensure they hold both Thames Water and the government to account and make sure river users’ concerns were listened to.

Thames Water hopes to have the scheme operational by 2033. Their proposals are currently being reviewed by the government.

A petition calling on Thames Water to abandon the project has now been signed by 25,000 people. You can add your name here:

Find out more about the campaign here:

A crowd of people on the river bank watch protesters in and on the water.
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I created Outdoor Swimmer in 2011 (initially as H2Open Magazine) as an outlet for my passion for swimming outdoors. I've been a swimmer and outdoor swimmer for as long as I remember. Swimming has made a huge difference to my life and I want to share its joys and benefits with as many people as possible. I am also the author of Swim Wild & Free: A Practical Guide to Swimming Outdoors 365 a Year and I provide one-to-one support to swimmers through Swim Mentoring.