Thames Water supply crisis sparks chaos: Fears for care homes, schools are forced to shut and locals queue for bottled water in car parks as up to 12K Brits are still without water
The Thames Water supply crisis plunged Surrey into chaos today, with schools forced to shut and fears for residents in care homes as locals queued for bottled water in stations at car parks.
Thames Water apologised for the problems in areas including Guildford and Godalming as it blamed Storm Ciaran for creating ‘issues’ at the Shalford water treatment works.
Surrey County Council (SCC) declared a major incident yesterday as its staff dealt with incidents involving reports of no water or low pressure, while Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said on Sunday that Thames Water had told him that at least 13,500 homes had been affected in total.
Schools in affected postcodes – including Milford School, Rodborough School, Tenderlinks Day Nursery and Moss Lane School – were forced to close. A manager at a care home told SurreyLive they ‘haven’t got nearly enough water’, adding: ‘We need to be able to help residents wash, brush their teeth, we need to keep them hydrated. And then there’s cooking, flushing toilets.’
Waverley Borough Council leader Paul Follows today estimated as many as 12,000 could still be affected. Blaming Thames Water for a lack of communication, he told BBC Breakfast: ‘Water infrastructure in this country is clearly crumbling.
‘I have certainly got questions for the county for not declaring a major incident much earlier, and I will certainly have questions for our MP about the state of water infrastructure in the local area because it is clearly failing.
‘People have been quite upset… we’ve had almost no communications from Thames Water right from the start, so just actually trying to get basic information about what the problem is, how they’re resolving it and when it will be resolved, that has actually been the challenge.’
Vast queues form for bottled water in the crown Court Car park in Godalming Surrey
Local residents collect bottles of water in Godalming, Surrey, as almost 12,000 people remain without running water
Locals carry bottled water back to their cars after Storm Ciaran caused problems at a treatment plant in Surrey
Local put bottled water in their cars due to the water shortage ongoing today
Borough Council leader Paul Follows criticised the firm for a lack of communication
Surrey County Council (SCC) declared a major incident on Sunday.
It said staff were dealing with incidents involving reports of no water or low pressure while Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said on Sunday that Thames Water had told him that at least 13,500 homes had been affected on Sunday afternoon.
David Bird, retail director for Thames Water, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday: ‘We absolutely accept that the quality of service that has been provided to our customers has not been at the level they would want, but obviously in this specific incident in Guildford it has been as a result of one of the biggest storms we’ve had in a decade.
‘My focus today is making sure we are supporting all of our customers.’
Mr Bird said the water network around Guildford posed a particular challenge as it was ‘in effect an island’, and that Thames Water had given out nearly half a million litres of bottled water to those affected.
He added the company was seeing improvements in the situation and hoped to get customers back on supply ‘in the very near future’.
Mr Hunt, who is MP for South West Surrey which includes Godalming and the surrounding villages among the affected areas, said he was ‘very concerned’ about the situation and tweeted that he would talk to a Thames Water executive.
After speaking to Alastair Cochran, Thames Water’s interim co-chief executive and chief financial officer, Mr Hunt posted a message on X, formerly Twitter, which said the firm was ‘resetting and reprogramming’ the control system.
The Chancellor later tweeted that the firm was ‘tankering water to ensure that they can support hospitals and bottled water stations remain open’.
A Thames Water spokesperson said: ‘Shalford water treatment works is now back online, following issues caused by Storm Ciaran. We need to refill underground reservoirs which have run very low and expect supply to return over the next 24-hours. We’d like to thank our customers for their patience during this time.
‘We’re very sorry to residents who are still experiencing no water or low pressure. Tankers remain in the area to pump water into the local supply network and we’ve re-opened two bottled water stations:
- Crown Court Car Park, Godalming, GU7 1HR and
- Artington Park and Ride, Old Portsmouth Rd, Guildford GU3 1LP
‘We understand the frustration that residents have, which is why we are building up resilience in the area and have committed to invest in building a new 9km water transfer pipeline to connect part of the Guildford area to an alternative source of water. Works are scheduled to start early next year.’
Yesterday the families affected by the shortage were furious and vented online about the huge problem.
Professor Nigel Wright, an expert in flood risk, said: ‘A lack of planning and investment in resilience has caused this. Don’t pass the buck.’
Tobias Byfield agreed: ‘Shocking lack of comms from Thames Water – I’m an affected customer and have not had a text or email from them.
Thames Water apologised for the problems in areas including Guildford and Godalming
As many as 12,000 Brits are still without water as the Thames Water supply crisis sparks chaos
Long queues of cars are forming as people wait to collect bottled water at a collection point
Many Brits were seen queuing and collecting the bottled water today
Thousands of bottles can we seen stacked high in the car park as people come to collect water
‘I think Jeremy Hunt wasn’t given an update until about an hour ago, its really poor comms + logistics and hope ‘lessons are learnt’ here.
And another customer railed to Thames Water: ‘Timeframe? Risk of the issue spreading wider? You’re a joke of an organization.’
Mr Hunt, who is MP for South West Surrey which includes Godalming and the surrounding villages among the affected areas, previously said he was ‘very concerned’ about the situation and tweeted that he would talk to a Thames Water executive.
Surrey County Council (SCC) yesterday advised affected residents to head to water stations at Crown Court in Godalming but they were faced with long queues.
Bottled water stations were set up at Artington Park and Ride in Guildford. After speaking to Alastair Cochran, Thames Water’s interim co-chief executive and chief financial officer, Mr Hunt posted a message on X, formerly Twitter, which said the firm was ‘resetting and reprogramming’ the control system.
The MP added: ‘If successful they will be able to restore supply to affected customers. Artington now open for water supply so that should relieve congestion.
‘Good that SCC have now declared this a major incident. Next question is what the impact will be on schools tomorrow if it is not resolved. Also getting messages from pubs that have lost trade from closing on a busy day – big big impact on many people.’