When Thames Water decided to use a stretch of the river near Teddington Lock to film a new advert, they probably didn’t anticipate provoking a protest.
However, the spot is popular with several swimming groups including the Teddington Bluetits, which has 946 members on its Facebook group. While swimmers have long been upset about the amount of sewage discharged into watercourses, they have now become concerned about Thames’ plans for future water supplies. One of the proposals from the company is to remove water from the river, from the spot where the Bluetits swim, and pump it to storage reservoirs in North London. They will then replace the water, to maintain flow rates, with treated effluent from the nearby Hogsmill Sewage Treatment Works.
Starting on 24 January 2023, the film company ‘Outsider’ are filming an advert for Thames Water where their puppet otter, who lives in a riverside house, notices from his window that Thames Water are digging up the road. In the advert, the workmen explain why their work is essential to the otter. For activist-minded Bluetits, this was too good an opportunity to miss.
“As a local large swim group, we feel that perhaps Thames Water should spend more time fixing their leaks – losing 630 million litres a day, which amounts to 20 % of water usage, and not spending so much money on public information propaganda involving puppet otters,” said one of the protesters. “What is the point of it? To say otters can live in treated sewage water?
“In the recently published brochure from Thames Water ‘Keeping water flowing for the future’, they say that they are aiming to fix leaks so that water loss is reduced by 16% by 2030 and halving leaks by 2050. This is just not good enough.”
The Bluetits plan to continue their protest over the weekend while filming continues and hope to attract national media attention.