At times, the water quality of the river Thames is questionable and every user of the water needs to be aware of this.
The waste water that goes down your toilet and sinks is directed into London’s sewer network. Surface water (rain) is directed through a network of storm drains into the sewers too. The storm drains also have redundancy to prevent flooding – they overflow into the Thames. The problem is that London’s sewer network was built in the Victorian era and London’s population has increased dramatically since then. The sewers can manage the waste water, but struggle to cope when lots of storm water is also added and this causes some sewage to be dragged through the system and deposited into the river when the storm drains overflow. This happens as a result of extended periods of rainfall or with sudden downpours.
Additionally, there are a number of pumping stations that are permitted, in times of heavy flows, to discharge “screened” waste water into the river.
WBB is aware of sewage in the river by monitoring the storm drains nearby, by visually inspecting the water and we receive notifications from the pumping stations when they are discharging. If we believe the water quality is poor, we will cancel the sailing and kayaking activities that day to protect our users and our instructors.
Since the Thames is tidal, fresh water coming from the sea and from the upper reaches of the river tend to wash the river out in approx. 24hrs but there are times when it can take longer.
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What is being done to cure this problem?
There is a massive tunnelling project underway to bore a new sewer below the Thames. The existing sewers will then be piped into this, along with many of the storm water overflows. We can’t wait!! Learn more about the project: https://www.tideway.london/the-tunnel/our-solution/