A £250 million water plant built to protect hundreds of thousands of households from the effects of drought has been switched off, the Telegraph has learnt.
As hosepipe bans were imposed on a million more people across the south of England, Thames Water admitted that a major water desalination plant opened by the Duke of Edinburgh in 2010 will not work until next year at the earliest.
The company had repeatedly assured regulators as recently as January that the plant in Beckton, east London, was ready to be switched on "for use in drought", claiming it would help provide fresh drinking water to up to 400,000 households every day.
But the Telegraph has learnt that the plant – the only one in the UK designed to turn salty seawater into fresh water – has in fact been turned off amid questions over whether it was ever fully operational.
Emma Gatten has details from insiders on what went wrong.