Photographed by © Finn Beales, courtesy of Culture Trip, with story voiced by Susan Sarandon
Every single one of London’s rivers suffers from pollution. They have all failed water quality standards. Because the authorities aren’t ensuring that these waters remain clean.
So London Waterkeeper Theo Thomas has stepped in… to hold polluters accountable and deliver safer access to his city’s waterways.
You see, there are days when the Thames is safe for swimming. When people can enjoy what this historic river has to offer. But when it rains…it’s an entirely different story.
Stormwater runoff causes the river to swell with torrents of sewage water. And while no one is going to willingly swim in unsafe water…
What if the pollution isn’t visible? What if they don’t know? Then they go for a swim…and they get sick.
That’s why Theo is working to develop a safe swimming app. As a result of his efforts, the Thames Water utility company has accepted the fact that they must inform people when it’s safe to swim. This education is critical, and Theo is making sure they stick to their commitment.
But his work goes far beyond the Thames…and far beyond safe swimming.
Theo is demanding that all environmental information be made public. He’s working to integrate plantings and porous surfaces to help the city become more resilient to climate change. And he’s helping people establish deeper connections with London’s rivers.
Because when you understand the value of your waterway, you can play a greater role in what needs fixing.
Theo Thomas, a former BBC news journalist, has been one of the most outspoken and independent voices for London’s rivers for nearly two decades, first as the London Canalkeeper and, since 2014, as the London Waterkeeper. He is leading the campaign for more effective water management, and advocating for more coordinated planning of green infrastructure through the use of plantings and porous surfaces to slow down the torrents of polluted stormwater runoff — one of the greatest threats to London’s waterways, and made worse by climate change — that flow into London’s sewers and, ultimately, its rivers. As a result of his efforts, Thames Water, the private utility responsible for the public water supply and waste-water treatment in London, has committed to putting real-time sewer overflow data online and piloting a water-quality-information system for swimmers and other users of the Thames River and the city’s other waterways.
Waterkeeper Warriors is a celebration of the 20th Anniversary of Waterkeeper Alliance, presented in partnership with Culture Trip. Inspired to join our Warriors in protecting the world’s waterways? Donate now.
Special thanks to Creative Producer Kathryn MacLeod, our partners at Wild Woods Picture & Sound and our friends at Sonic Union and Sound Lounge.