The United Kingdom led the world in the development of large scale sewerage systems; the Greeks had small sewers, as did the Romans but the British in Victorian Imperial splendour really pioneered the treatment of human waste faeces. However, like many things in which the British once led the world, the British have fallen behind in the latest techniques of treating waste water.
It seems that some sewerage plants in Northern England and in London have been dumping sewerage in rivers and canals and as far as London is concerned the treatment capacity of sewerage is sufficient for dry weather but when the rain falls heavily and the sewers fill up there is not enough space to treat all the sewerage, so some of it is dumped into the watercourses, where it kills fish and pollutes the water. The River Thames is treated from time to time to a dose of effluent when it rains hard.
London is building a new sewer under the Thames called the Thames Tideway Scheme which will be about eight yards in diameter and extend for 22 miles and will be completed in 2023, it seems. The cost – more than £4 billion is going to be borne by Londoners as part of their water charges.
The Thames Tideway Scheme is not the most environmentally friendly scheme that could have been devised. Other cities in the USA and Europe have managed to effect sewage treatment is better ways cutting pollution and greenhouse gas emissions but that is not to be for London. We could build porous pavements, storm water wetlands, pervious pavements, storm water tree trenches, rain gardens and use more rainwater collection for garden watering but we will not. Britain is either too ignorant or too careless or too miserly to manage excess rainwater properly.
We will suffer from the twin vices of poor sewage management and poor water management.
All of these devices will prevent much excessive rainwater ending up in the sewers, but will put the water where it belongs, in the ground where it can grow things. In Britain we simply build a sewer and no more and in eleven years from now if the new sewer is built on time, more sewage will be treated but there will still be the use of the Thames as an overflow system. Thus we know the price of clean water but not its value.