Scottish Water chief highlights changes in environment as key to future planning

IT had a closing group balance last year approaching £430bn, supplies vital services to 2.5m homes and 156,000 businesses, and tackles controversy over everything from burst pipes, road works to what it adds in our taps.

But now Scottish Water – the organisational giant that supplies 1.35 billion litres of our fresh water every day – is looking in the mirror, taking stock of the future, and inviting help from the public and Scottish business.

Here, chief executive Douglas Millican, sets out his concerns over the environment, technology and the changing face of Scotland, and explains how their customers can help shape their future planning.

Douglas Millican, chief executive, Scottish Water

Most of us take it for granted. But when we think about it – most feel a sense of pride. And recently one of the world’s biggest celebrities – JK Rowling – revealed how she missed it when she was away from her Scottish home.

We are talking water. Scottish Water.

The utility has now launched a major consultation to help shape future water and waste services and to help it determine what services are needed over the next three decades – including what is needed to make the utilities work even greener.

Scottish Water Chief Executive Douglas Millican: “We are striving to provide effective and sustainable collection and treatment of waste water, reduce the rainwater entering sewers, and protect Scotland’s water environment.

“We also want to become more resource efficient, low carbon and socially sustainable and are looking at ways to do this.”

Douglas Millican pic (1)

Mr Millican said Scotland’s water environment was the best it has been since the industrial revolution, with Scottish Water having invested significantly in improving and upgrading our treatment assets to clean up the waste water that goes into rivers, lochs and seas.

He said the utility’s five million customers – it supplies 1.35 billion litres of fresh clean water every day – value a reliable waste water service and a clean natural environment now more than ever.

Mr Millican said: “Achieving this will require long term investment in maintaining our assets, making our service more sustainable and taking a different approach to storm water management. We know that pollution incidents impact on trust in the service we provide, so we need to increase the reliability and resilience of our assets and continue to look for ever more sustainable solutions.

“Changes in our climate and population are already putting pressure on our waste water services, and we expect this to become a greater challenge in the future. We will continue to proactively monitor the environment to understand future changes and risks.”

He highlighted how Scottish Water continued to look at ways to make its services and products greener and more sustainable. He said it would invest in upgrading its assets where there is robust scientific evidence that its discharges were having an adverse impact on the water environment.

And talking of going forward as part of the six-month consultation he vowed to ensure investment in ageing waste water processes with innovative and sustainable technologies – and more energy and resource efficient processes with the opportunity to recover value from society’s waste – would be looked at.

One example of this was when Scottish Water completed its largest solar panel scheme to date in the heart of Scotch whisky country last September. Scottish Water Horizons, a wholly owned subsidiary of Scottish Water, is helping drive forward the organisation’s green agenda having recently installed a total of 4800 photovoltaic (PV) panels at two adjacent borehole sites in Speyside.

The £1.2 million installation will see both sites generating a total of 1GWh of energy per annum, whilst saving 437 CO2eq tonnes of carbon every year. The installation will also offset over one fifth of the borehole sites’ electrical needs annually.

The project will help provide power to pump water to nearby Badentinan water treatment works. In addition to helping Scottish Water meet renewable energy targets and protect the environment – and savings from the new installation will be passed to customers keep bills down going forward.

As well as using solar energy, Scottish Water Horizons is harnessing renewable energy from Scottish Water assets using different methods, including food waste recycling and recovering heat from waste water.

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Another recent project saw Scottish Water complete a project at Lerwick’s Sandy Loch to restore an area of peatland, helping protect the area and enhance the quality of the water supply for the area. During routine survey work the utility’s Sustainable Land Management Team identified a large area of exposed peat by the Sandy Loch that would benefit from restoration.

Within weeks the restoration of the peat was completed, with the eroding area transformed into bog pools and replanted with native plants. The work will protect the peat from future deterioration and promote the right conditions for new peat to form.

Mr Millican also told how Scottish Water’s carbon footprint continues to reduce, supported by further decarbonisation of grid electricity. Its operational carbon footprint for 2016/17 fell by a further 38,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) to 352,000; a reduction of nearly 10% on the previous year. Since it began monitoring and reporting our carbon footprint in 2006/07, its annual emissions have fallen 24%. 

He said: “We are committed to managing emissions and to ensuring all parts of our business consider carbon and wider sustainability. To this end we have been developing our updated Carbon Management Plan to encourage and track actions that each area of Scottish Water can undertake to help mitigate our emissions.  Our Carbon Management Plan will be published shortly.”

The CE says the public has a major part in shaping the utility’s ambitions and determining where the utility – the fourth largest water and waste water service provider in the UK- spends its money.

Mr Millican said: “Our aim is to keep delivering a world-class water service. In order to do this we must take a long term view and seek to understand the likely future challenges and opportunities, making the right choices to support the needs of current and future customers. And I am genuinely looking forward to hearing the views from customers

“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.”

“While most of our customers receive a flawless supply of water and waste water services, rising expectations and the challenges we face require us to increase the reliability, resilience and sustainability of our services to seek to deliver high quality, great tasting drinking water every minute of the day.”

To take part in the consultation goes to: https://www.yourwater.scot/

EDITOR’S NOTE: The above piece was written and contributed by Scottish Water.

Shaun Milne is a Scottish based journalist with a particular interest in environmental issues, politics and travel.

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