The River, Present and Future Challenges

A talk by Roger Weston hosted by the Chiswick Pier Trust

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Roger Weston outlined the concerns of the Thames Strategy Kew to Chelsea, of which he is the recently retired chair, at the Chiswick Pier House on November 12th.

The strategy is a partnership formed to plan for the river and the land alongside it for the next 100 year (see

Over the last 200 years our stretch of the river has seen the bank side country houses give way as the river became a key artery during the Industrial Revolution, and then over the last 30 years land use changed again with deindustrialisation.

Currently, a number of riverside schemes have been delayed or even stopped due to the recession, like the Scottish Widows site at Kew Bridge, although plans continue to be drawn up for the Nine Elms and Battersea Power Station sites.

Roger then introduced Alex Nickson, Strategy Manager for Climate Change Adaptation and Water at the Greater London Authority. The Mayor’s Draft London Water Strategy went out for consultation in August and Alex gave an outline of the key issues. The objectives of the strategy are: to use water more effectively and efficiently; to minimise the release of waste water and diffuse pollution, and to reduce the threat to people and buildings.

The Thames and its tributaries provide us with 80% of our water (the rest comes from the aquifer beneath our feet) and London, like all of South East England, is water stressed and will become more so as the number of households grows and the climate changes (wetter winters with more intense rainfall; drier, hotter summers, with a conservatively predicted decline in rainfall of 19% by the 2050s).

The draft strategy for managing water use can be summarised as: use less, lose less (leakage currently runs at 26.8%), reclaim more. Run-off from rainfall must be slowed and more of it stored, which would also reduce the flood risk.

The GLA would like to see a million homes retro-fitted to use water more efficiently and metering would also encourage conservation but there are many problems, not least the cost. The full text of the draft can be read at

The discussion afterwards was lively and informed. In part it centred on what individuals could do to conserve water and the difficulties involved in, for instance, trying to siphon off bath water to use in the garden. If you would like to find some water saving ideas and gadgets try the Waterwise website which was recommended by Alex.

The talk was part of a series organised by the Chiswick Pier Trust, a charity which puts people in touch with the River Thames.


November 19, 2009