Meet the robots being deployed to tackle sewage blockages across Thames Valley

  • Video report by Charlotte Briere-Edney


Engineers are deploying specialist robots to tackle sewage blockages across the Thames Valley.

It's part of Thames Water's plan to clean more than 2,000km of sewage pipes across this region this year.

The water company says the pandemic has changed were blockages are most likely, but it's warning people to be aware of what they're flushing.

Sewage robot

The pipe cleaning teams are equipped with robots that are able to reach into the smallest of sewage pipes.

It looks like a small Mars rover and it's 360 degree camera allows it to spot blockages, fatty build-up and even cracks.

The team were at this sewer on the outskirts of Abingdon last November, when the pipe was so clogged up the robot couldn’t even go in. It took them 10 days to clean it.

During the pandemic clogging hotspots have changed - with some relief for city centres and areas with lots of office space  - but some of the burden shifting to more residential areas like this one.

Down the pipes, rag can be sucked up, or picked out, today a water jet is being used to clean the pipe and disperse accumulations. Sadly most of this is completely avoidable if the right things go down the loo.

Last year, Thames Water swept a record 1,500 kilometres of underground pipes, and this year they’re hoping to cover 2,300km.

However, that's only around 2% of their entire network which covers 110,000km across the Thames Valley and London.

Thames Water say the message to people at home is think about what gets flushed down the toilet and put down the sink. "It's the three 'P's only: pee, poo and paper." In terms of fat, do not put anything down the sink that can congeal as it can cause blockages.