Some relevant articles and blog posts are listed below. Please do contact us to suggest more!
Press, blogs and comments
- Why a rooftop garden makes environmental and economic sense Financial Times, 31 October 2014 — Matthew Wilson has his head firmly screwed on: “There is a sublime irony to the logic that suggests £4.2bn of subterranean sewer makes better fiscal and environmental sense than a programme of incentives to encourage living roof construction and sustainable urban drainage systems.”
- Realising the dream of cooler, cleaner more habitable cities, Imperial College London, 9 July 2014 — “A green area double the size of Hyde Park is paved over every year in London” and “We think we can tackle this issue far more cheaply [than the TTT] with greenroofs and rain gardens that act to retain stormwater.”
- A City’s Best Defense Against Climate Change? Its Trees, Wetlands, and Watersheds, TakePart, 26 June 2014 — nice summary of the Green Infra plans from the leading US cities, including those, such as Washington D.C. which are turning away from outdated concrete models towards the multi-benefits of GI.
- How Suds can stop the floods, Daily Telegraph, 3 Jan 2014. Why a paradigm shift is necessary if we’re to adapt to the increasingly disruptive weather events caused by climate change. A couple of relevant quotes:
- Two thirds of the front gardens that make up five per cent of London’s land have been paved over for parking, for example, causing water to run off faster.
- Typically [SuDS] cost less than half as much as traditional drainage systems and far less than the flood defences erected to safeguard communities, essential though both continue to be. And they can improve areas and property values by encouraging wildlife and adorning landscapes.
- Landscape architects could play a key role in the adoption of a less-expensive green infrastructure (GI) alternative to Thames Water’s proposed £4bn ‘super sewer’, the Landscape Institute, 24 Nov 2013
Copenhageners [...] have realised that doing the right thing for the environment brings jobs – and higher living standards – to the city. Both from a financial and a sustainability perspective.
Prof Mathiesen, Aalborg University (DK)
- Tackling climate change: Copenhagen’s sustainable city design, The Guardian 8 October 2013.
- Copenhagen, due to its low-lying position is particularly worried about the threats of Climate Change
- Like New York City, Copenhagen is using Green Infrastructure to address challenges of stormwater management in a Climate-sensitive way
- Green Infrastructure: Cities Across the Nation Become More Resilient, HuffPost Green, 3 Oct 2013 — Resilience and sustainability are two critical dimensions we need to improve our cities on, in the face of 21st century environmental challenges.
- A Super-city vs The Super-Sewer, Eco Hustler, 30 Sept 2013. A great, clairvoyant and well-researched piece by an environmentalist who can see beyond Thames Water’s glossies – not to be taken for granted…
- Can London’s largest living wall kill off the risk of flooding?, Business Green, 21 Aug 2013. Matthew Pencharz reporting that Boris is “keen to encourage similar green infrastructure”. Time to show if he really means business!
- Federal Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Plan Can Better Prepare Us for Future Storms, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), 20 Aug 2013 — a real must-read on how the Obama administration has had its eyes opened by the damage wrought by hurricane Sandy and how they have realized that Green Infra can help mitigate flooding and storm surges but also safeguard drinking water and sewer overflows. Will it sadly take something like Sandy in London for our politicians to come to the same conclusions??
- Philadelphia water management: from grey to green infrastructure Guardian Sustainable Business, 10 June 2013 — needs no introduction..
- RE.invest Initiative Announces Partnership with Eight Cities to Build More Resilient Stormwater Systems, The Rockefeller Foundation, 22 May 2013 — draws lessons from the damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy in NYC and the obvious need for Green Infrastructure to serve both as mitigant to such events and to help prevent further escalation of climate change that triggers them.
- Environment: Investing in green infrastructure will bring multiple returns to nature, society and people, European Commission, 6 May 2013
- The EU Commission finally moving to close the gap with the US Environment Protection Agency by announcing a timetable for an EU-wide strategy on Green Infrastructure. Will this come too late and allow London to go down in history as the last City to apply a ruinous, unsustainable anti-solution to its storm- and waste-water management challenges?
- Axe supersewer and adopt my greener plan, says US expert, Evening Standard, 17 Dec 2012
- Expert casts doubt on Thames Water super sewer plan, BBC News, 13 Dec 2012
- US expert : more studies needed on solutions to London’s sewer problems, Water Briefing, 13 Dec 2012
- Report on the White House Stormwater Conference, “Stormwater” (the journal for surface water professionals), 24 Sep 2012
- Reports from The White House conference, “Municipal Stormwater Infrastructure: Going from Grey to Green”
- In the US, which doesn’t suffer from the headwind of a privatized monopoly water industry, a number of very successful experiments are leading the EPA to designate Green Infrastructure as its favoured approach to solve stormwater mgmt issues
- “Katherine Baer, senior director for American Rivers, agrees there is a nationwide fundamental shift toward green infrastructure, noting that more cities are starting to integrate it into their programs, with support coming from local governments, utilities, and nonprofit groups.”
- UK’s front gardens paved over for parking spaces, report shows, Guardian, 18 July 2012
- “One-third of the 20.8m homes with front gardens have turned them into hardstandings, amounting to just under 7m homes, an area roughly equivalent to around 100 Hyde Parks”
- The findings also raise concerns about the potential effect the increased paving would have for floodwater run-off, making drains more likely to overflow. The Committee on Climate Change Adaptation Sub-Committee’s (ASC) progress report, published last week, highlighted the increase in paved-over gardens as a danger during periods of flooding
- INFOGRAPHIC: The Philadelphia Story, Onearth Magazine (a survival guide for the planet), 26 Aug 2011
- A great non-technical illustration of how Green Infrastructure solves the issue of Combined Sewer Overflows
Thames Tideway Tunnel (financial) scandal
The private monopoly is the worst of both worlds.
Dave Prentis, Evening Standard 10 June 2013
- Planned London super sewer branded waste of time and taxpayer money, The Guardian 27 Nov 2014 — read this!
- 12 September 2014: Today is a bleak day for people genuinely concerned with London’s environment as the Government has rubberstamped TW’s planning application for the TTT, summarily brushing aside a number of serious concerns from the planning inspectorate. A number of organizations, lead by three to four local councils now have six weeks to launch a Judicial Review against the Government’s arbitrary decision to prioritize comfortable revenues for offshore financiers over the well-being and long term interest of its own citizens. Here are some noteworthy echoes in the press:
- ‘Super-sewer’ in London and south-east could add £80 to water bills, The Guardian, 12 Sept 2014.
- Thames Water’s supersewer secures planning permission, Financial Times, 12 Sept 2014.
- London’s ‘super sewer’ gets the go ahead, BBC News, 12 Sept 2014.
- Super-sewer could be drain on taxpayer, the Sunday Times, 27 July 2014
- The Govt has pledged uncapped taxpayer support to the TTT in the form of the ‘Water Industry (Financial Assistance) Act 2012 (see point 7 in the TTT mythbuster (myth #2))
- Despite the Govt’s eagerness to avoid taking that blank cheque onto its balance sheet, EU regulations could force it to do so. This recently occurred with a similar arrangement with Network Rail, which ballooned to from £20bn to £30bn while being hidden off-balance sheet…
- “The scheme also needs approval from the EU because of state aid concerns.”
- Soaking the customer – Thames Water’s £4 billion sewage money grab, The Ecologist and the Open University Conversation, 4 July 2014
- NAO Thames Tideway email angers Labour peer, New Civil Engineer, 1 July 2014 – it appears the TTT even has the ability to compromise the National Audit Office’s independence from the Government…
- Peer complains of coalition obsession with major projects, New Civil Engineer, 1 July 2014
- Thames Water: the drip, drip, drip of discontent, The Guardian, 15 June 2014. Inspects how privatization has delivered against its promises (not very well it seems), with a few paragraphs dedicated to the heist that is the TTT “in which the ultimate insurer for the £4bn project will be the British taxpayer”
- Thames Water seeks investors for £4bn ‘supersewer’, Financial Times, 10 June 2014
- Only available independent cost-benefit analysis points to benefit of £180m vs (capital) cost of £4.2bn (excluding colossal financing costs…). This is clearly value for rate/tax-payer money…
- “Sweetened” terms of 12-13% internal rate of return offered to elite offshore investors, with Government Guarantee meaning taxpayers hold all the risks. These stupendous conditions far outstrip anything available in the open market – why?
- Public spending watchdog National Audit Office warns of risks that because Thames Water is procuring the construction contracts but is not an investor, it has limited incentive to keep the price down and that financing costs are, at present, unknown…
- Note: some sources think that a conservative estimate for financing is north of £6bn, ie: dwarfing the capital cost.
- Most, if not all, of the exceptinal interest returns on this financing — paid for by UK taxpayers — will leave the UK to Australia, China and Abu Dhabi via Cayman Island and Luxembourg tax havens
- (Comments at the bottom of the article are well worth a read…)
- Sewer backwash hits Macquarie Group, Sydney Morning Herald, 31-Mar-2014 (looks like the Aussies are also fond of their local predatory Bank…)
- Thames Water’s high stakes project is poor value, Financial Times, 28-Mar-2014
- In the Back: Thames Water’s Great Drain Robbery, Private Eye, 7-Feb-2014
- Engineer: ‘I backed £4billion Thames Water super-sewer but it’s too dear’, Evening Standard 4 Feb 2014.
- Thames Water will not pay tax for a DECADE despite soaring profits as London ‘super-sewer’ helps it avoid bills, the Daily Mail, 30 Nov 2013
- Ministers challenged on decision for sewer tunnel, the London Forum, 9 November 2013.
- Thames Water bill rise to pay for London ‘super-sewer’ rejected by Ofwat, the Guardian, 8 November 2013. Good to see Ofwat show some teeth. And it was really necessary considering what Ofwat discovered; for example, that TW had overstated the cost of acquiring land for their sewer. Alas, the £29 one-off charge that was rejected here will be dwarfed by the planned 25% permanent hike on a quarter of the UK’s population to pay for TW’s darling sewer unless we manage to stop it and implement Green Infrastructure instead…
- Ministers challenged on validity of Govt decision on Thames supersewer, Water Briefing, 24 Oct 2013 — an excellent summary of the mounting evidence which will eventually cause the flawed case for Thames Water’s darling tunnel to collapse from a number of angles.
- Tunnel Vision: Thames Water and the London Tideway Tunnel, a new white paper independently researched by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (released 21 Oct 2013) lets the cat out of the bag on Thames Water’s motivation for pursuing the antiquated Thames Tideway Tunnel against all the evidence from experts, academics and other cities tackling the same issue with Green Infrastructure. Read also:
- New report says Thames Water’s “super-sewer” will target bumper profits, Water Briefing, 21 Oct 2013
- Thames Sewer Plan May Be Triple Industry Average, Bloomberg, 21 Oct 2013.
- Water company may charge double for super-sewer, the Times, 21 Oct 2013.
- London super sewer ‘should be scrapped in favour of cheaper projects’, the Guardian, 23 Sept 2013. Subject says all. Read the article for a most lucid analysis of the situation by Sir Ian Byatt. The water industry veteran, yet again blows the whistle on Thames Water’s outrageous plans and the Government’s laissez-faire.
- As London’s Costly ‘Super Sewer’ Project Looms, Regulator Wary Of Costs Passed To Consumers, Water Online, 18 Sept 2013
- Ofwat challenges Thames Water’s push to increase bills by 8%, The Guardian, 13 Sept 2013
- If the public pays for the super sewer it should own it too, New Policy Institute, 14 Aug 2013. What could be more sensible? Alas, it’s not too compatible with the corporate agenda. But rather than getting ensnared in those issues of who’s going to milk whom, we should remember that the TTT is the wrong solution.
- Thames Water makes waves with price rise proposal, Financial Times, 12 Aug 2013. Well worth a read, including some of the comments.
- Water industry: can’t pay, won’t pay, The Guardian, 12 Aug 2013
- Robust TTT challenges launched by Peers in the House of Lords, 24 July 2013. The Defra Minister sounds like a defensive, broken, record, rehashing the same “my Lords, Thames Water told us this is the best scheme”… High time to do your homework, Defra.
- The following articles relate to George Turner’s excellent research and Centre Forum report “Money down the drain: getting a better deal for consumers from the water industry” into the profiteering practices that are commonplace in the monopolized water industry:
- Former regulator attacks water firms over windfall profits and high prices, The Guardian, 17 July 2013
- Water firms that pay excess dividends should be forced to cut prices, says former Ofwat chief, The Daily Telegraph, 17 July 2013
- Water companies told to stop siphoning off cash to foreign owners, the Independent, 17 July 2013
- Water companies ‘take money from customers to pay their investors’, the Times, 17 July 2013
- Water giants’ profits and tax ‘morally questionable’, says Ofwat boss, The Telegraph, 9 June 2013.
- Title says all; be sure to read how water companies are upset that the “corporate veil is being pierced”; ie: the cosy arrangement that allows them to abuse their monopoly position to profiteer from their captive consumer base. The Thames Tunnel is attempting to take this one big step further by committing all UK taxpayers via a treasury blank cheque…
- For a third year running, TW have paid no (actually negative) UK tax, despite multi-billion pounds payouts to their shareholders. The claim is that they’re borrowing to invest in infrastructure but… hang on, this is the same company that wants to hike 14m consumers’ water bills by 25% in perpetuity to pay for their darling super-sewer, whilst investing exactly zero themselves… Looking a little closer at their accounts, the dividends paid exceed their already tidy profits… so this is where the borrowed money is going. And guess who’s picking up the interest on all that debt?
- Don’t miss TW’s response, where they say they have a perfectly clear conscience, paying negative UK tax for three years in a row. And particularly the priceless conclusion that using a Cayman Islands shell company is actually a requirement of operating/acquiring a UK business. TW, one day your luck will run out…
- See also: Thames Water pays no corporation tax on £1.8bn turnover, the Guardian, 10 June 2013
- Thames Water hiked bills and made £549m profit, but paid no corporation tax last year, the Evening Standard, 10 June 2013
- Thames Water has, no doubt, acted legally. But that’s not the point any more. The law is in question, Tax Research UK, 11 June 2013
- Thames Water attacked for paying not a drop of tax, Financial Times, 10 June 2013
- Thames Water in Tax Row, ITV News hot topic page, 10 June 2013
- Sold down the river: How Thames Water diverts its tax liability via the Caribbean despite £549m profit and 6.7% price hike, the Independent, 11 June 2013
- Resist the Thames Super Sewer, Ethical Consumer, 17 May 2013. An excellent piece on the ethical scandal surrounding the TTT
- Ofwat boss criticises generous water company dividends, Utility Week, 6 Mar 2013
- Exclusive: Now water companies are caught avoiding tax, The Independent, 14 Feb 2013
- Enter the Vampire Kangaroo, The Sunday Times, 10 Feb 2013 – an interesting report on Macquarie, the Australian Investment Bank, the majority and controlling stakeholder in Thames Water. “One of Britain’s largest foreign direct investors, yet [which] pays little tax here.”, who “has demanded that the UK Govt indemnify the TTT scheme” (via the Water Industry (Financial Assistance) Act 2012 uncapped taxpayer backed guarantee) and would reap all the upside…
- Thames Water struggles to plug bad debts before arrival of the giant sewer bill, the Times, 3 Dec 2012
- Thames Water is obliged to fund big projects, The Financial Times, 11 Nov 2012, by Simon Hughes MP and Sir Ian Byatt
- Thames Water – a private equity plaything that takes us for fools, the Observer, 11 Nov 2012
- This water tax trickery in the corporate sector is unacceptable the Observer, 10 Nov 2012
- Water companies pay billions to shareholders but little tax. Why? the Observer, 10 Nov 2012
- Why should Londoners pour money down the drain?, the Times, 5 Nov 2012
- Simon Hughes MP and Sir Ian Byatt ask searching questions. Why Thames Water’ owners, having paid themselves extremely generous dividends (more often than not exceeding profits!) over the years, now say their customers have to stump up the £4.1bn – excluding financing, operation costs and profit margin – to pay for the Thames Tunnel.
- Is it wise in this context for the government to sign a blank cheque (the Water Industry (Financial Assistance) act 2012) to a corporation with a byzantine structure of ownership, which hasn’t paid any UK tax in the last year.
- Should the Thames Tunnel go ahead, the authors argue that it should be financed using a rights issue and that if Thames Water is not up to the job due to past profligacy, it should be taken over, at a discount, to reflect this liability, which its current owners, led by Australian Investment Bank Macquarie, have been aware of as the purchased the company in 2006.
- Sir Ian Byatt is a veteran of the water industry, having presided over its privatization at Ofwat for 11 years. He’s arguably one of the best qualified persons to call out the red flags.
- Sewer problems, The Financial Times, 5 Nov 2012
- Echoes the above article with a scathing analysis of how the type of guarantee proposed by the Government to bail out the Thames Tunnel would imply that Thames Water’s “profligacy is acceptable and should even be supported by the taxpayer who will be on the hook if things go wrong. This is not the way to use the government balance sheet.”
- Taxpayers will have to dig deep to pay for London’s
£3.6bn£4.1bn ‘super sewer’, The Observer, 5 Aug 2012.
- A well research article by Simon Hughes MP which highlights one of the key motivations for the Thames Tunnel, namely to serve as profit vehicle for Thames Water’s shareholders, which have been busy loading the company with debt in order pay themselves handsome dividends, whilst dodging UK tax.
- Simon gave more evidence in front of the HoC in October 2012 including the trend of TW’s UK tax paid over the last three years (£16m, £500k, £0).
- Private sector failing to deliver, Natasha Wiseman, Editor of Water & Wastewater Treatment magazine, 13 March 2012.
- A very lucid look into the consequences of the Water Industry (Financial Assistance) Act 2012, which was passed in order to facilitate financing of the Thames Tunnel (among others). The article draws pertinent parallels with the “the banking crash that saw private institutions shored up by state funds”.
- Expert claims River Thames ‘super sewer is for profit’ BBC News, 27 Oct 2011
- The water industry is burying a leaking pipes scandal, Fred Pearce, The Guardian, 8 May 2012.
- Water companies need to do a better job of conserving supplies, Fred Pearce, The Guardian, 24 Feb 2012
Urban air pollution
- Supreme court finds UK in breach of European air pollution rules, Financial Times, 1 May 2013.
- “UK government failing legal duty on air pollution, supreme court rules”, Guardian, 1 May 2013).
- The UK has just been found to be in breach of yet another critical EU environmental directive.
- The Govt claims the situation cannot be improved in London before 2025.
- Shocking stat: “Air pollution causes 29,000 early deaths a year in the UK”!
- Implementation of Green Infrastructure would actually help address two costly issues in one go and would start improving the issue gradually. Knock-knock Westminster: integrated, out of the box thinking urgently required…
- Thamesbank’s position on the Thames Tunnel 7 Nov 2012. Thamesbank is a well established NGO set up over 15 years ago, whose mission is to defend the Thames against a seemingly never-ending stream of unsustainable proposals. Read their lucid analysis of how morally corrupt Thames Water is “holding a gun” to UK rate and taxpayer’s head with the Thames Tunnel, a project which “will drain nothing but our pockets”. Thamesbank is collaborating with the Environment Law Foundation to ensure the legal aspects of this mega-project are adequately scrutinized by an independent body.
- Does the Thames Tunnel project create an economic stimulus? Blog post by Mohenjo, 24 July 2012. The likely answer is not what the Thames Water glossies would have you believe… There’s still a £25 Amazon Voucher up for grabs for who can provide a sensible answer to the good questions raised in this post…
-  See page 23 of the Ofwat report. When “normal people” try to inflate expenses and get caught red-handed, this normally has consequences beyond their request being politely declined… ↩
-  As described in the Parliamentary Explanatory Note of the act (para 21), the act contains the innocuous implication that “[taxpayer] support [of exceptional project risks, such as the Thames Tunnel's] cannot be monetized” ↩