Thames Water ‘shut down emergency drought plant to save money’

Thames Water may have shut down an emergency drought plant to save on power costs, the local MP has said.

The desalination plant in Beckton, east London, has been switched off despite water shortages and a looming hosepipe ban, the Telegraph revealed earlier this week.

The first hosepipe ban comes into force today for people living in parts of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, which are supplied by Southern Water.

South East Water, which supplies parts of Kent and Sussex, will introduce a hosepipe ban affecting 1.3 million people from next Friday, and Welsh Water has also announced a ban covering parts of west Wales.

George Eustice, the Environment Secretary,  is understood to be on annual leave in his Cornwall constituency, rather than in Westminster, as the drought crisis intensified.

A spokesman said on Friday afternoon: “George Eustice is in his constituency of Camborne and Redruth but has been keeping in touch with Defra policy officials regarding the drought conditions and held a meeting with the policy team at 11am this morning.”

The Thames Water plant, which is designed to take water from the Thames Estuary and treat it to create drinking water, is out of action for maintenance, despite being included by the company in drought plans submitted to the Environment Agency earlier this year.

Desalination is energy-intensive, requiring both electricity and heat. Electricity costs have risen by around 50 per cent since last year.

‘Very strange that it’s out of action’

The plant costs more than ten times to run than a standard sewage treatment works, the company said, at around £660 per million litres, compared to £45 per million litres for a standard plant.

Stephen Timms, MP for East Ham, said: “It does seem puzzling to me when clearly we are in a situation which is exactly the kind of situation…

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