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Innovative Art Installation Highlights Growing Concerns over Thames Water Quality

Troubling State of Thames Water Quality

In a bold statement on the quality of the River Thames, an anonymous artist, known only as Impro, has chosen a prominent position on the side of Sonning Bridge, Berkshire, to erect a urinal. This audacious act is an apparent protest against the water conditions of the renowned river.

The urinal, merely the latest in Impro’s lineup of unusual public installations, follows a series of other items affixed to the very same bridge. Previous installations ranged from a post box to a telephone. These unexpected installations have sparked curiosity and baffled council authorities, with the urinal causing a particular stir.

Impro’s art not only triggers intrigue but also brings Thames Water into the spotlight. The water company has recently been scrutinised for issues surrounding sewage discharges and leaks.

Impro’s Legacy of Surprising Installations

Known for his unconventional approach, Impro’s previous works have included a Santa Claus figure appearing trapped in an oversized post box on an Oxfordshire roundabout last December.

Sonning Bridge has been a regular canvas for Impro, with a fake post box installation causing confusion among locals, including famed entertainer Uri Geller, back in 2013. The incident even compelled the Royal Mail to issue a public statement to clarify that the post box was a phoney and any mail posted there wouldn’t reach its intended destination.

A mysterious black front door, complete with a floating doormat, was the artist’s next intriguing installation on the bridge. It sparked such curiosity that one resident was driven to row up to the door to knock on it. By 2021, the bridge saw another unexpected addition: a telephone with an “Emergency Flood Line” sign above it.

However, as Sonning Bridge is a listed structure, all of Impro’s installations, including the recently placed urinal, will inevitably need to be removed, pending approval from Wokingham Borough Council.

The Troubling State of Thames Water Quality

Despite these theatrical displays, the more pressing issue at hand remains the concerning state of the River Thames’s water quality. Recent surveys found that while water quality was relatively stable, an alarming 92% of samples displayed a substantial amount of coliform bacteria. In 1% of cases, the surveys identified severe reductions in dissolved oxygen levels, threatening the aquatic life inhabiting the river.

The water quality issues indicate the alarming amount of storm-sewage pollution entering the Thames. London’s antiquated sewage system, designed to accommodate the significantly smaller Victorian-era population, combines both rainwater and wastewater. Today, with a vastly expanded populace, the system is stretched to capacity.

When faced with rainfall, the already overloaded pipes cannot manage the additional water influx. To prevent flooding in homes, the solution, albeit undesirable, has been to discharge the combined rainwater and sewage into the Thames, causing a concerning level of storm-sewage pollution.

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