Thames Water Desalination Plant

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The Thames Water Desalination Plant or Beckton Desalination Plant is a water desalination plant in Beckton, London, United Kingdom.[1] The first of its kind in the UK, it was constructed for Thames Water by a consortium of Interserve, Atkins Water and Acciona Agua.[2] The plant was officially opened by Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh on 2 June 2010.[3] The plant can provide up to 150 million litres of drinking water each day – enough for nearly one million people.[4][5][6]


Much of Thames Water's supply area is classed by the Environment Agency as 'seriously water stressed', with customers in London, Swindon and Oxford particularly at risk of water restrictions during extended periods of dry weather. Building a new treatment plant that treats water from the brackish waters of the River Thames, turning into clean, fresh drinking water, will help reduce the risk of water restrictions and ensure that severe water rationing is never required.[7] The plant will be used to convert brackish water from the River Thames into clean drinking water during times of drought or extended periods of low rainfall,[8] or to maintain supplies in the event of an incident at other water treatment facilities. Architects Broadway Malyan designed the plan to RIBA Stage D and acted as expert witness at public enquiry.

Facts and figures[edit]

The plant produces 150 million litres of water a day which is enough to supply 400,000 households or 900,000 people and runs on 100 percent renewable energy. The plant takes water from the tidal Thames during the last three hours of the ebb tide and removes salt using a reverse osmosis process. The treated water is then transferred from Beckton (East London) to North East London in an 8 mile long pipeline which can hold 14 million litres of water and has a diameter of 1.2 metres. The plant is mainly used in times of drought or to support existing supplies if needed.[7]


The total cost of the scheme including the pipeline was £250 million. The route of the pipe was chosen to avoid residential areas and cause minimum disturbance. All construction sites were environmentally screened and all areas returned to their original condition on completion of the work.[7]


The raw water is first treated by a conventional settlement and filtration process before the salinity is removed by reverse osmosis. Mineral salts, as found in the company's conventional water sources, are then added before final purification.[9]


Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone criticised the plant in 2007, calling it a "misguided and a retrograde step in UK environmental policy." Livingstone, arguing that the plant was expensive and unnecessary, said that Thames Water should instead focus on reducing waste caused by leakage and that people should be encouraged "to use less water, not more."[10]


  1. ^ Thames Water Desalination Plant:
  2. ^ Interserve group to build £200m Thames Gateway water scheme Building Magazine 9 July 2009 Retrieved 2 April 2013
  3. ^ "Salt water plant opened in London". BBC News. 2 June 2010. Retrieved 17 August 2016.
  4. ^ Thames Water website - Then and now
  5. ^ "UK gets first desalination plant", BBC News, July 18, 2007.
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b c "How the treatment works operates". Thames Water. Retrieved 22 June 2014.
  8. ^ Scott, M. (2012). "Increasing population and the environment: How do the numbers stack up?". Significance. 9: 8. doi:10.1111/j.1740-9713.2012.00536.x.
  9. ^ "How the treatment works operates". Thames Water.
  10. ^ "Mayor critical of government plans to approve desalination plant" Archived 2008-05-07 at the Wayback Machine, Greater London Authority press release, June 15, 2007.

Coordinates: 51°30′56″N 0°05′34″E / 51.51554°N 0.09278°E / 51.51554; 0.09278