Thames Water is asking customers for their views on how the company plans to provide a “secure and sustainable supply” of water over the next 80 years.

The company has launched a public consultation on its draft water resources management plan after “extensive and detailed modelling” of more than 200 options, it said.

The draft plan considers significant population growth in London and the Thames Valley and a changing climate.

Thames Water said a key theme throughout the plan is making the most efficient use of all current available water resources. The company aims to achieve a 15 per cent reduction in water escaping from its 20,000-mile network of pipes by 2025, ten years earlier than originally planned. It had initially outlined its intention to reduce leakage by 9 per cent by 2025.

The water company previously admitted it has “let down” customers on its leakage performance. It said it has listened to customers and stakeholders and now plans to reduce leakage by a minimum of 15 per cent by 2025.

This would see it reduce the amount of water lost from 646 to 549 million litres every day, or from 25 per cent to 22 per cent of the amount of water it puts into supply, Thames Water said.

Ofwat is urging water companies to reduce leakage by 15 per cent by 2025. In its final methodology for PR19, it said: We expect companies to adopt ambitious leakage commitments, justified against our challenges: a 15 per cent reduction by 2025 and forward-looking upper quartile performance on leakage per property per day.”

Steve Robertson, chief executive of Thames Water, said: “By 2045, our region is expected to be home to two million more people. In contrast to the increasing demand, we expect to see a declining supply of water as climate change increases the likelihood and severity of droughts.

“Our plan aims to meet the growing needs of the wider south east, and we’ve been working with fellow water companies in England and Wales to take a co-ordinated approach to ensure we offer our customers the best possible value solution. We now want to hear what our customers and stakeholders think.”

Thames Water said demand management proposals alone will not be enough to meet the increasing demand and has proposed new sources of water.

These include a new scheme to take more water from the River Thames above Teddington Weir in west London from 2030 and constructing a new reservoir in Oxfordshire in the 2040s.

Paul Britton, chief executive of Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce, said: “Population growth across the Thames Valley, and the impacts of climate change, are increasing the risk drought poses to the region through water use restrictions. This may limit the availability of water to certain sectors or, in extreme cases, to all businesses. The economic costs of such restrictions range from £600 million to £2.1 billion in an extreme drought. We therefore need to consider a step change in the level of water supply resilience in our region.”

Nicci Russell, managing director of Waterwise, added: “I’m delighted to see the ambition set out in this plan. We only have to look at Cape Town to see the social, environmental and economic impacts in a global city of taking too little action, too late.

“It’s entirely right that Thames Water should be protecting its customers – and the resilience of their water supply – by working more and more closely with them to help them save water. And it’s right that increasing water efficiency for every home takes precedence over finding ‘new’ sources of water.
“We look forward to stretching water efficiency targets in the final plan.”

The consultation runs until 29 April and a report will be published in August, setting out the comments received and how Thames Water plans to take them into account in revising the plan.