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U.K. releases plans for water neutral 'eco-region' near London

Thomas Gateway redevelopment project along the Thames River would include water-neutral and carbon-zero buildings.

The U.K. Housing Ministry released official details on an expansive $18.6 billion redevelopment project that would be water-neutral and feature carbon-zero buildings.

The Thames Gateway 9 billion-pound ($18.6 billion) project would span 40 miles along the Thames River from London's Canary Wharf to Southend in Essex and Sittingbourne in Kent.

If approved by Parliament, the Thames Gateway could be "Europe's largest regeneration project," according to the proposed plan (PDF) from the U.K. Ministry of Housing and Planning.

But the ministry has also repeatedly said it wants the project to be an example of responsible environmental development to the rest of the world.

Proposal of how the Thames Gateway might look. U.K. Ministry of Housing and Planning

The Thames Gateway is proposed as an "eco-region" using new environmental technologies and higher environmental standards than previous U.K. development projects. That designation includes energy savings modifications to reduce the carbon emissions of existing homes in the region by 60 percent. Newly built homes would be completely carbon neutral.

Most interesting is the assertion that the project can be water-neutral, meaning the region will not require the use of additional water despite the plethora of new homes being built and people moving in.

and several other U.K. ministries announced the results of a year-long study on Friday. It determined the Thames Gateway region could limit its consumption to what is uses now if an intensive water management system is put into place as new homes are built. This would include the use of water-saving appliances, variable-flush toilets, low-flow showerheads, and low-flow faucets in both new and existing homes.

Also included in the proposal are plans for what would be two of the largest offshore wind generation dams in the world and a biomass generation plant for energy.

The Thames Gateway Web site claims that the project will "pioneer new approaches to maximizing efficient use/re-use of land, water and waste."

The project is in keeping with the U.K. government's goal to require all new construction homes to be carbon zero by 2016, Yvette Cooper, U.K. minister for housing and planning, said in a statement. That takes into account U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown's promise to build 3 million new homes by 2020, many of which would be affordable housing for renters and first-time buyers.

Thames Gateway would also be incorporated into the Olympic site plans for 2012 and Crossrail, a proposal to expand the current U.K. rail system with a new high-speed underground railroad across London and South-East to be completed by 2017.