Following extensive water quality monitoring, the ECP has identified critical upgrade work that is needed to Thames Water’s sewage treatment works to reduce phosphorus pollution caused by sewage across the Evenlode catchment. Excess phosphorus in rivers can cause significant algae growth which affects oxygen levels and can kill fish and harm other aquatic life.

Despite clear evidence and extensive discussions with Thames Water, their recently published business plan for the period 2025-29 does not commit to these upgrades, necessary to improve water quality in the Evenlode catchment.

Ann Berkeley, ECP project manager said "The partnership has worked hard to provide concrete evidence proving the need for immediate upgrades to Thames Water’s 19 sewage treatment works in the catchment, including the urgent requirement for phosphorus stripping. Extensive monitoring by ECP citizen scientists, and analysis of data by scientists at Earthwatch, has confirmed the damaging impact of phosphorus on the Evenlode and its tributaries."

Thames Water had previously agreed with ECP’s assessment to include phosphorous stripping upgrades in their draft business plan (PR24). Upgrades to 13 sewage treatment works were included in the draft plan as recently as summer 2023, but were dropped from their most recent business plan which has now been formally submitted to the Ofwat for scrutiny.

Thames Water's business plan (PR24) now contains no new sewage treatment works upgrades for the Evenlode catchment for phosphorus stripping or to meet their legal commitments under the Water Framework Directive.

Thames Water has also postponed 105 previously funded improvement schemes across its network, including those for Moreton-in-Marsh and Milton-under-Wychwood sewage treatment works, until the 2025 – 2029 period with a sum of £1.13 billion allocated to the costs of completing these essential works.

Ann Berkeley continued: “Thames Water has repeatedly assured us that the required improvements will be made, but these are not present in the business plan. This is a betrayal of our trust and we no longer have faith in Thames Water’s assurances. In light of this, ECP has made the difficult decision to end our relationship with Thames Water at the conclusion of our project in 2025, symbolising our collective dismay at Thames Water's lack of meaningful commitment to repairing the damage already done to our rivers.”

ECP is also committed to redoubling its efforts to improve the ecology of the Evenlode, collaborating with other environmental groups such as Windrush Against Sewage Pollution (WASP) to achieve their shared goals.

For further information and media inquiries, please contact Ann Berkeley 01865 407429

Notes to Editors

None of the criticism expressed by ECP is directed to Thames Water staff responsible for delivering the Smarter Water Catchment project locally. ECP recognises their professionalism and dedication, acknowledging the challenges they face working for the company.

Thames Water Draft Business Plan

About Evenlode Catchment Partnership (ECP): The Evenlode Catchment Partnership was established in 2014 and is a collaborative effort aimed at preserving and enhancing the water quality and ecological health of the Evenlode River and its tributaries. Comprising local organizations, conservationists, and citizen scientists, ECP is committed to safeguarding the natural environment for the benefit of future generations. Find out more about the ECP here