The future of Scotland’s vital water and waste water services is the focus of a consultation which communities throughout the country are being asked to take part in. Scottish Water, the country’s publicly-owned utility, has asked for the views of its five million-plus customers to help determine how it can continue to deliver more than a billion litres of water a day over the next 25 years.

The company, the fourth largest water and waste water utility in the UK, also processes 945 million litres daily of waste water which it treats before returning safely to the environment.

Faced with a number of strategic challenges and issues over the coming decades, the results of the consultation will inform Scottish Water’s priorities for customers until 2046. Customers are being asked to participate through Your Water where they can find out more about Scottish Water’s ambitions for the next 25 years and complete the survey.

Douglas Millican, Scottish Water’s Chief Executive, said: “To keep delivering a world-class water service, we must take a long-term view.

“It is essential that we seek to understand the likely future challenges and opportunities, making the right choices to support the needs of current and future customers. I look forward to hearing views from customers on our ambitions.”

There are three key ambitions which the utility wants to hear from customers on:

  • Delivering a consistently leading customer experience
  • Keeping customer prices low by driving further innovation and efficiency through smart investment choices
  • Increasing the reliability, resilience and sustainability of our services to new and emerging challenges

Full details of the ambitions are set out in a new publication – Shaping the Future – and highlight how Scottish Water aims to focus on delivering high quality, great-tasting drinking water, manage and treat waste water, reduce rainwater entering sewers and protect the environment.

Customers are being asked to also consider how Scottish Water supports growth in Scotland’s economy and population through expansion of its infrastructure and networks.

The organisation is also seeking views on how it becomes more resource efficient, low carbon and socially sustainable. Issues such as the impact of climate change and the challenges and opportunities presented by digital transformation and innovation will be factors in Scottish Water’s activities.

The consultation is open until August and responses will help form Scottish Water’s planning for the future.

Visitors to events later this year, including the Royal Highland Show, the Ideal Home Show, and Belladrum Tartan Heart music festival, will be able to participate in person in the consultation. Work will be undertaken in rural and island communities to promote the consultation and encourage participation.

Mr Millican added: “In preparing our proposals we have researched customer views on the services we provide and have examined the trends and driver of change looking ahead towards the middle of this century. The world is changing at a dramatic pace and customers will remain at the heart of our business.

“We are a leading utility and proud that Scottish households trust their water services more than any other consumer sector. But we are ambitious to do more and to reach a level where our services are truly reliable and sustainable for future generations.

Investing in the future

The legacy of Scotland’s Victorian water pioneers is being carried into the 21st century through a multi-billion-pound investment programme to deliver infrastructure which will serve customers for decades to come.

The supply of clear, fresh drinking water at the turn of last century placed Scotland at the forefront of innovation, engineering and public health. Scottish Water – as the custodian of the country’s modern-day water supplies and waste water treatment – is investing £3.9bn over the current six-year investment period which runs until 2021.

Next year alone, the utility will invest £700m in capital projects throughout the country. Those projects, large and small, urban and rural, will deliver increased capacity into the network of more than 60,000 miles of water and sewer pipes that keep Scotland’s water cycle flowing.

During 2017, £640m was invested on a wide range of projects ranging from new water treatment works, sewer upgrades and the introduction of innovative new technology to decrease Scottish Water’s carbon footprint.

And as the Shaping the Future consultation – setting the priorities and ambitions for the next quarter of a century – rolls out, both business and domestic customers are being asked to take part and ensure the legacy is carried forward for decades to come.

Major projects in communities included a new water treatment works at Oban, a waste treatment works at Inverurie using ground-breaking technology, and the replacement of a Victorian-era sewer in Edinburgh as part of a wider programme of capacity-building.

One of the biggest civil engineering projects ever undertaken by Scottish Water – the 3.1 mile-long Shieldhall Tunnel – reached a significant milestone in October 2017 when tunnelling operations concluded in Queen’s Park after 16 months of boring beneath Glasgow’s surface.

The tunnel will provide increased capacity in the waste water network across large swathes of the south-side of Glasgow, improved river water quality and reduction in flooding. Delivered through Costain Vinci Joint Venture, many hundreds of workers from contractors in Scotland and beyond – including specialists involved in tunnelling projects around the world – have been involved in the £100m project.

Work is ongoing on building the resilience of the water network in Ayrshire and East Renfrewshire in a £120m project which will benefit more than 200,000 customers. It will allow Scottish Water to maintain supply and respond more effectively when issues do happen such as burst mains.

But it’s not just Scotland’s heavily-populated urban areas which are benefitting from investment. A £10m waste water project in Stromness has just been completed which will see customer and environmental improvements delivered.

A Scottish Water spokesman said: “Keeping our customers in supply with fresh, clear and clean drinking water is a vital part of what we do. Delivering more than 1.3 billion litres a day to customers depends on an infrastructure network which is both resilient and reliable.

“The Shieldhall Tunnel project is literally the single biggest upgrade to Glasgow’s waste water network in more than a century. The team delivering it are absolutely aware of the Victorian legacy they are building upon.

“The investment we’re committing to water main upgrades and sewer replacement involves a workforce which stretches beyond just Scottish Water. We have an expansive supply chain of alliance and delivery partners with more than 3000 people employed by companies who work with us to deliver these improvements.

“As a key player in Scotland’s civil engineering infrastructure, including through our work with house builders, the construction and development sector and connecting new business and domestic customers to the network, Scottish Water has a significant effect on the country’s economy.

“We strive to deliver all of this at a cost which is as low as possible for our customers and sensitive to environmental impact.

“The logistical scale of what Scottish Water does, around the clock, seven days a week, is hugely significant. The water we supply powers business and industry. Our domestic customers use on average 150 litres of water a day – almost without even thinking about it.

Shaping the Future provides all of our customers and stakeholders – domestic and business or across the various groups who have an interest in what we do – with a real chance to help us deliver on our ambitions for the decades to come.”