Scotland’s water environment is the best it has been since the industrial revolution, with 63% of all water bodies classified as having ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ ecological status. We have invested significantly in improving and upgrading our treatment assets to clean up the waste water that goes into rivers, lochs and seas.
Our environmental regulator, SEPA, expects compliance with all our licence obligations and would like us to look beyond compliance. Our customers also value a reliable waste water service and a clean natural environment. These expectations have shaped our waste water service ambition to seek to deliver effective and sustainable collection and treatment of waste water every minute of every day.
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.
We will invest in upgrading our assets where there is robust scientific evidence that our discharges are having an adverse impact on the water environment, there is clear environmental benefit from the proposed investment, and that investment is the most sustainable way to achieve a required environmental outcome.
Where we do invest, we will use it as an opportunity to modernise our ageing waste water processes with innovative and sustainable technologies, and processes that are more energy and resource efficient and provide us with the opportunity to recover value from society’s waste.
‘Priority substances’ are harmful chemicals that can find their way into the environment through the sewerage system. These chemicals are regulated as part of the Water Framework Directive. We will continue to work in partnership with SEPA to manage the risk of priority substances, to understand how these substances enter the water cycle and to work with partners to consider catchment management and source control approaches. Where source control is not possible, we will look to manage priority substances by improving our waste water treatment works.
Twenty of Scotland’s waste water treatment works, and our largest sludge treatment centre, are currently operated under long term Private Finance Initiative contracts which will come to an end between 2021 and 2040. We will manage the end of these contracts on a case by case basis, with the intention to take back control of these assets where this represents best value for money.