A charity working to clean up the River Evenlode is set to sever ties with Thames Water accusing the firm of 'betrayal' and abandoning its commitment to improve its water quality.

The Evenlode Catchment Partnership said it will stop taking any funding from the water company after 2025 when its current project ends.  

The Evenlode rises near Moreton-in-Marsh and journeys through the Cotswolds towards Cassington where it joins the Thames.

Witney Gazette:

Thames Water has released untreated sewage into the Evenlode and Thames from sewage works in Cassington and Witney, among others, polluting the bathing spot at the Wolvercote Mill Stream at Port Meadow.

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In 2021, Thames Water provided funding to a group called the Evenlode Catchment Partnership (ECP) as part of a 10-year initiative to improve water quality and restore the river to ‘good’ ecological status.  

ECP identified upgrade work needed to Thames Water’s sewage treatment works to reduce phosphorus pollution which affects oxygen levels and can kill fish and harm other aquatic life.

But, it said, despite the water company having agreed to the “critical” work it was missing from Thames Waters’ latest draft business plan.

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 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.”

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ECP said it would now redouble its efforts to improve the ecology of the Evenlode, collaborating with other environmental groups such as Windrush Against Sewage Pollution (WASP).

Thames Water said its draft business plan submission is subject to change but acknowledged it is "not what our partners had expected and we’re sorry for the concern this has caused".

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A Thames Water spokeswoman said: “The last year has been an extremely challenging year for the business.

"As we set out in our full year results, our performance was impacted by inflation, which significantly increased costs for energy, chemicals and capital items, and the penalties we received as severe weather events impacted operational performance.  

“While we are still spending the same amount in real terms, the purchasing power of this amount has been impacted.

"Given this we continue to take a rigorous approach to financial discipline throughout the company in order to operate within budget and to prioritise improving the core performance of our business.”