Our water service ambition is to seek to deliver high quality, great tasting water every minute of every day.
Although the quality of the drinking water we supply is the highest it has ever been, there are still areas that need improving and risks that we need to manage, particularly with our changing climate.
Water quality failures, and complaints about the taste or smell of water, impact on our customers’ trust in our service.
We have identified key areas to address including organics, disinfection, discolouration and lead.
The water we use to produce our high quality drinking water is predominantly taken from surface water sources such as lochs and rivers which are rich in natural organic matter.
Increasing levels of natural organic matter in source waters are placing more strain on our treatment works. To address this challenge sustainably over the long term, we will continue to monitor the levels of organic matter in our source waters. In partnership with land owners and governmental agencies, we will take steps to manage the source waters using catchment management. Where this approach is not suitable or timely, we will invest in advanced treatment processes.
The majority of our customers rely on a single water treatment facility to supply their water. We need to improve the reliability of our treatment works as they age, and increase their resilience to changing water quality. This may include new treatment stages, improvements to control and instrumentation, and improving the resilience of our power supplies.
We manage an extensive water network of nearly 50,000 km of pipes and 1,300 water storage tanks. Maintaining the condition of our network stops bacteria from getting into our water supply. We will continue our programme of inspections and maintenance, and develop real time monitoring tools to reduce the risk of bacteria entering our water.
If any bacteria do manage to get into our water, we use chlorine or ultraviolet light to kill them and make it safe to drink. To ensure reliable and effective disinfection whilst minimising the taste of chlorine, we need to improve the disinfection facilities at a number of our water treatment works. We will also continue to look for alternative methods of disinfection to minimise the need for chlorine.
Discolouration of water supplies is generally caused when deposits of iron, manganese and aluminium in the network are disturbed during times of high flow. We will continue to clean and reline the pipe network to reduce discolouration in the most appropriate way and to pursue innovative approaches to managing our networks. Where there is no alternative, we will replace our pipework. We will also use catchment and reservoir management, and invest where necessary to reduce manganese entering the water supply.
As part of the revision of the Drinking Water Directive we expect the safe standards for lead in drinking water to be further reduced so we will need to do more to reduce the amount of lead in drinking water. The standard UK industry approach is to add a chemical to the water supply, but in our soft Scottish waters it is becoming increasingly difficult to meet the lower lead standards. We will continue to better understand the science and explore alternatives to current chemical dosing and how best to identify lead in our network and our customers’ properties.
We will remove any remaining Scottish Water lead pipes and work with the Scottish Government and other stakeholders in respect of lead pipes within customer properties. We are determined to play our part so that everyone can access a lead-free water supply.