London is facing an increasing risk of both drought and flooding due to a combination of population growth, poor water management and environmental factors, according to Labour member of the London Assembly.
Leonie Cooper, who is AM for Merton & Wandsworth and deputy chair of the Assembly’s environment committee, says in a report drawing on figures from the capital’s two largest water suppliers that the number of burst water pipes in 2018 was up substantially compared with 2015 – from 5,642 such incidents to 7,623 – and had already topped 1,500 by the end of February this year.
Citing a recent Environment Agency report warning that the south east of England as a whole could run out of water in the next 25 years, Cooper urges London Mayor Sadiq Khan to put pressure on Thames Water and Affinity Water to half the annual number of leaks and to work with them to encourage Londoners to save water.
She also recommends that the Mayor encourages greater water efficiency in London’s buildings through planning requirements and the retrofitting of water-saving devices, and that he lobbies for quicker progress towards constructing a proposed new reservoir in Oxfordshire, currently scheduled for completion in 2037.
Cooper also argues that London should be alive to a greater danger from flooding as well as inadequate water supply due to extreme weather associated with climate change. She wants the Mayor to encourage national government to “conduct an assessment of the costs and benefits of bringing forward the construction of a new Thames Barrier to protect Londoners against faster than anticipated sea level rises”. The estimated date for the current barrier to be replaced is 2070.
Loss of gardens and other green spaces in the capital are weakening “natural drainage” capacity to counter floods, Cooper says, as these enable water “to drain through permeable ground”. She notes “anecdotal evidence” that waterways are not providing as much “sustainable drainage” as they could due to inadequate maintenance.
The Mayor produced a sustainable drainage action plan in 2016, and his draft new London Plan asks property developers to provide high levels of sustainable drainage in new projects. But Cooper points out that in its response to the draft Plan, pressure group Natural England expressed fears that these measures might be insufficient. She asks the Mayor to convene a working group to put together and push through an action plan to enhance drainage and tackle leaks.
Photo taken from the Cooper report.
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