Thames drying but not dying

After two years of exceptionally low rainfall, the upper reaches of the tidal Thames were beginning to become noticeably shallow at low-water – but recent headline stories that the River Thames as a whole had dried out so seriously that navigation was now hindered were being dismissed as nonsense by boaters and the Environment Agency.

“All this press coverage is completely wrong and is causing nothing but problems,” said one hireboat operator based in Windsor. “People now think there’s no point in going out on the river at all, and I’ve been inundated with the media asking me questions about the problem. But there isn’t a problem. We have more than 30 cruisers between here and Lechlade, all operating without any difficulty at all. Of course you can still cruise right along the Thames!”

Mike Warner of the Association of Thames Yacht Clubs agrees. “Certainly water flow is down but it’s nothing unusual. My boat draws four feet and we regularly cruise as far as Oxford – we haven’t had any problem at all.”

The Environment Agency, which is responsible for the non-tidal Thames, said that the lack of rain meant water levels were low, though not yet seriously. It added that it was closely monitoring the amount water companies were abstracting from the river.

Meanwhile, the Port of London Authority, responsible for the tidal Thames, said the reduced water flow over Teddington Lock was causing some problems, but only on upper tidal reaches.

As part of’s 10th anniversary we’re going to be trawling the archives to see what news stories were making the headlines a decade ago. Don’t forget to join the celebration by entering our £40,000 competition – just click here to go to the competition page.