Rain and the River Thames

I woke up this morning and noticed that it was raining.  I love the rain.   However, as I look out the window I am reminded of an article I read in the Economist (Nov. 5, 2011) a few months ago.  During the Victorian age, Joseph Bazalgette designed London’s 21,0000-kilometre sewerage system.  His system made living in London more pleasant since it helped eradicate cholera and improved the smells in the city.  His goal was to make a system that would last over the years.  But in today’s world the population is larger and there are more city streets than parks causing more run-off.  Rain water and sewage end up in the system.  His system has a safety valve for when it is overflowing.  If this happens the waste ends up in the River Thames.

Now once a week the safety valve opens up and dumps raw sewage into the river.  If it rains two millimeters in one hour it could cause a release.  Each year, 39m tonnes of untreated waste heads for the river.  Where does it go?  It eventually ends up in the sea.

As I sit here looking out the window sipping my tea, I wonder how much it has rained during the night.

Here are some photos of the Thames.  It is such a lovely river.

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American who's recently returned to the US after a seven-year stint in the UK and Ireland. When she isn't writing, she's traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs in New England, or reading. Not necessarily in that order. Her novels have hit Amazon bestseller lists for lesbian fiction and lesbian romance. She cohosts the Lesbians Who Write Podcast (lesbianswhowrite.com) with Clare Lydon. TB also runs I Heart Lesfic (iheartlesfic.com), a place for authors and fans of lesfic to come together to celebrate lesbian fiction.
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42 Responses to Rain and the River Thames

  1. foodmaniaqs says:

    quite educational 🙂

  2. niasunset says:

    It was interesting… And beautiful photographs…. I loved the colours and the light how you captured. Rain is so nice when doesn’t give damage… In here we have rain too and we are expecting another snow storm this weekened… Thank you dear TBM, have a nice day, with my love, nia

  3. buddhafulkat says:

    This is something to be aware of though with most bodies of water I suppose. I try not to think about it when I’m at the beach, but here many hotels and resorts pump their sewage directly into the same water their guests are swimming in. The water still looks pretty, especially from afar – makes me think twice about following a whim (despite how cold the water is) and diving in.

    • TBM says:

      Unfortunately you are right. This is a worldwide problem. Like you, I try to push out of my mind what could be in the water when I am swimming in a lake or the ocean. Some places it is harder to do so. It always saddens me to hear that some businesses dump raw sewage right into the environment without any attempt of treating it properly. That is horrible.

  4. Caroline says:

    I live on the Rhine and all the pharma industries and chemical plants let their stuff into it…

  5. it’s good if you are a rain lover, when you are living in England, isn’t it?

  6. Ewww, I’m glad I didn’t jump in for a little swim while I was there!! Unfortunately, I think this happens far more than any of us would want to know. You pictures are so beautiful – the first one gives me such a sense of peace!

    • TBM says:

      I think you are right and it saddens me. Nature is so amazing and I wish people as a whole would learn to respect it. And it is depressing that that actions of a few, like businesses, destroy these places for the many. I’m glad you enjoyed the photos. The Thames is one of my favorite parts of London.

  7. Ipodman says:

    Nice photos! Lovely country… would like to visit someday…

  8. wolke205 says:

    I love the first photo! You really like when it s raining? Come on over, we had 7 weeks of rain in a row 😉

  9. Kate Kresse says:

    very interesting to hear about the development of the sewer system there. lovely photos, too.

  10. The Hook says:

    More incredible work! Good for you!

  11. Knew the Thames was dirty but those stats are horrifying! Very sad.

    It’s amazing how life still finds a way to cling on somehow, even in bad circumstances.

  12. Fergiemoto says:


  13. Oh wow, look at that bridge! The facts slipped through my mind as I was looking at your photos! I also saw the Danube while I was in Vienna, unfortunately wasn’t able to take photos. These ones look glorious!

  14. Jo Bryant says:

    such wonderful photos – it’s hard to imagine all that ^&*% floating around there…so sad

  15. Kristina says:

    Lovely pictures! It is a beautiful river and you don’t really realises how wide it is until you start trotting through the Greenwich foot tunnel 😀

  16. Nandini says:

    Wow! Tower Bridge. It’s one of the places I want to set my foot on. 🙂

    Great photos, thanks for sharing!

  17. carol says:

    Those photos are gorgeous, but I’d rather not think of the sewage being release into it.

  18. IsobelandCat says:

    Are you sure abouth the once a week thing? I understood it was when there was heavy rain only, and that is when you see the reoxygenators moving along the river. The reason why all the drains are being dug up is that Bazalgette’s system is hopelessly out of date. It used to be that sludge boats would take human waste and dump it in the deeps. Nowit is recycled at Erith, near Dartford.

    A book you might enjoy is The Great Stink by Claire somebody. I am pretty sure her name begins with C. Also if you get the chance to do anything with Thames 21, it is the charity that works to keep the Thames clean. It is the cleanest urban river in Europe. A talk by Chris Coode is worth hearing. He is very entertaining.

    • TBM says:

      According to the article I read it opens up on average once a week. It is pretty depressing. I actually picked up a copy of The Great Stink during my first couple of weeks after moving here. I haven’t read it yet, but it was on sale in a store and I thought it would be an interesting read. I’ll have to move up on my TBR pile. I’ll have to look into Thames 21 and Chris Coode.

  19. hugmamma says:

    The irony of life. Mother Nature serves up beauty…mankind serves up…garbage. The dichotomy with which we mortals live on a daily basis would drive us mad were we to dwell upon all the wrongs in life…and there are many, to be sure. But “hope springs eternal” as the poets say. And in keeping with that…and because I feel your blog, and your ongoing challenge for yourself…I’ve given you the Hug Award. Please do with it what you like, but I hope you’ll visit to see what I’ve said in recognition of…you and the hope you have…for many, many, many tomorrows.

    …you professed to loving hugs…will this do?…hugmama. 😉

  20. Jackie Cangro says:

    Well, that sounds…icky. I hope they’re doing something to fix the problem.
    Sadly, as someone mentioned above, this probably happens way more than we’d like to think about.

  21. The World IsMy Cuttlefish says:

    I will never see the Thames in the same light again. Certainly think twice before swimming in it. Do people swim in it?

    • TBM says:

      From what I hear the river is cleaner now than it was over the past two centuries. Some people swim in it for charity swims and such. But I don’t think many people wander down to the Thames to take a dip.

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