A year of significant milestones for the Council’s work with Thames Water
In the 12 months, West Oxfordshire District Council (WODC) has worked closely with Thames Water (TW) to make substantial improvements in vital areas such as sewage treatment, infiltration and pipe networks, planning processes, and communication.
Cllr Lidia Arciszewska, Executive Member for Environment, said, “Whilst the District Council lacks the legal authority to take direct action, we have actively worked on building a close working relationship with Thames Water, to gain a better grasp of the challenges we face and the necessary data, enabling us to make informed efforts to improve the state of our watercourses for our residents.
“Communication is key, and so residents can now also use Thames Water's interactive map, to find real-time tracking of discharges in rivers and watercourses. They can also use the ‘Report a problem’ online interface to support sewage problems. These new applications will offer more transparency and allow residents to flag their problems quickly and easily, without having to spend hours on the phone reporting the same issues.
“We've also taken steps to ensure updates and information are shared regularly between the Council and Thames Water.”
The Council and TW began participating in regular meetings in 2022, with WODC Councillors and Officers working directly with a wide range of experts from across the organisation.
To mitigate issues early in the planning processes, the Council introduced a Validation Checklist for development applications, to ensure that there is adequate capacity for sewage treatment works and sewer infrastructure to serve development sites. In addition, The Council and Thames Water have agreed that TW requests a Grampian condition on planning applications on sites within catchment areas with insufficient infrastructure. This condition will ensure that the new homes will not be occupied until capacity is provided.
Identifying problem areas across the district revealed that nearly half of the sewage treatment works’ capacity stemmed from water entering the system through cracked pipes or manhole covers. Collaborating with Thames Water, the Council encouraged the installation of additional flow monitors to help indicate where excessive water is getting into the system, with the data then being used to plan necessary repair work. In addition to this, the Council successfully encouraged Thames Water to focus on specific sites across the district, which led to faster progress of work in places like Brize Norton, Clanfield, Eynsham, and Crawley.