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by Douglas Millican
18 January 2022
Associate Feature: Scotland’s water services future focus on next two decades

Associate Feature: Scotland’s water services future focus on next two decades

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Scottish Water – the country’s public water and waste water services provider.

Over the course of those two decades much has changed. Our service has transformed to a level where we have been credited with having the top customer satisfaction score in the UK water sector.

Having achieved much over 20 years, however, much more work is now needed to face the challenges of the future.

Our approach to planning and prioritisation is also changing to become more dynamic and focused on delivering long-term capacity and capability as well as create a more robust and reliable water network and waste water management.

Over the course of this six-year regulatory period and in line with the final determination of our independent economic regulator, we must invest around £4.5 billion to achieve our ambitions and continue to deliver for customers. Customer charges will have to rise annually.

The climate emergency is the most significant issue to have impact on the delivery of our vital service to 5 million people here in Scotland.

Our extensive assets are increasingly aging – many parts of our waste water and water systems were built by the Victorians more than 100 years ago and were simply not designed to deal with either increasingly extreme weather or the pace of growth in our communities and economy.

Both these issues are having an increasing impact on our ability to supply clean, wholesome water for use every day – and protect people and the environment as we treat waste water.
While the Victorians transformed water supply and waste water management more than a century ago to protect public health – it remains an integral part of our remit and responsibility in 2022.

One of the benefits of creating a single organisation to deliver the country’s water and waste water requirements 20 years ago was to ensure investment in services was applied consistently throughout Scotland.

Over the past 20 years, Scottish Water has invested billions of pounds in communities from the most rural to city centres in order to provide customers, both domestic and non-domestic, with reliable services.

Projects in Scotland’s unique island communities, improving facilities which serve small numbers of customers have been successfully completed alongside work in major urban areas to improve reliability of water provision or reduce the risk of sewer flooding.

All of which has been achieved at the same time as we’ve become more efficient and kept customer charges lower than charges in England and Wales.

During the past 20 years much has changed and services have adapted in response.
Now we are engaged in a new programme of change which will transform services for future generations to come.

By 2040 our services will be delivered with net zero emissions – and when they have become net zero the aim is to go beyond that by working with others to contribute further to reductions in greenhouse gases.

Reducing our impact on the planet is at the heart of our approach to transforming water and waste water services.

We will double our investment in our assets over the next five years – annually more than £600 million is spent on improving and replacing parts of the country’s water and waste water systems.

At the end of 2021, a signal of our intent came in the shape of our Improving Urban Waters Routemap which outlined the need to spend up to half a billion pounds improving performance and monitoring of the waste water network including Combined Sewer Overflows – in order to drive up river water quality.

Concerns about waste water asset performance have increased during the pandemic as more and more people discover their local river environments. We recognise that while much has been done to improve our water environment over recent years, with significant investment to reduce the risk of sewage related debris in waterways, more can and must be done.

We will continue to focus on delivering value for money services for our customers, which deliver great quality water – for which Scotland is rightly known and recognised – and efficient waste water management on which the country depends.

This article is sponsored by Scottish Water.

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