photo by Fred Dawson (source: Flickr Creative Commons) 

Only in Britain?

In what may be one of the biggest wildlife relocation projects ever, some 300 water voles; 350 great crested newts and 30,000 smooth newts, along with thousands of snakes and lizards, are being moved to facilitate the construction of a deep-sea container port on the Thames River on the eastern outskirts of London. The port project, named London Gateway, is the first of its kind in the UK and is owned by the company DP World. In total, over 150,000 wild animals are to be relocated for the river port project.

From an article in the Independent:

It took almost eight months and more than 500 traps to capture the hundreds of water voles on the DP Gateway site. They were caught as they stepped into the tunnelled boxes looking for food and bedding. They were then held in the traps until released by an ecologist on the site.

Water voles, an important source of food for many larger animals, are endangered in Britain – their numbers have already been reduced by 90% during the past 30 years. Their fate is blamed on the North American mink, an invasive species.

Meanwhile, the Thames is also the site of the first large-scale desalinization plant for drinking water in the UK.

Despite southeast England’s wet weather, the region experiences less rainfall per person than the dry metropolises of Istanbul, Dallas or Sydney. Climate change, which increases the likelihood of dry summers, could strain water supplies in London.

From a report in the Guardian:

Thames Water has spent £250m building the plant and pipes, and has said that the equipment will only be turned on at times of drought, when it can supply up to 1 million people.

Opponents of the plant claim that it will use too much energy and that water saving measures are a better option. Thames Water has countered this by stating that the plant will be fully powered by biofuel.

It has been speculated that the plant could someday be connected to a nearby sewage plant to create recycled water, which could be a hard sell to consumers.

‘This water tastes familiar. I think I already drank this last week!’