Scottish Water yesterday [14th November] launched a major consultation asking for customers to help shape the future of water services in Scotland between now and 2040.
There is recurring public concern that the Scottish Government – any Scottish Government – may sell off Scotland’s water. This was indeed discussed by the current Scottish Government but rejected as an option, partly on the grounds of the strength of public opinion that this should never happen.
The forward date of 2040 for this consultation will, in part, be intended to send a signal that a sell off is not on the cards. However, this should not encourage anyone to relax vigilance on this issue, which will never entirely go away. A consultation is no more than a consultation and a resulting strategic plan is only a plan. Whatever period they may formally over is good only for the following year or so. Times change.
Scottish Water is setting out plans to ensure it can continue providing high quality drinking water to all customers, protect and enhance the environment, support the economy, communities and invest in future water services across Scotland.
The consultation document identifies potential challenges and opportunities – such as climate change, population change and developments in science and technology – which could arise in the next 25 years.
Scottish Water says it wants to hear customers’ views on the extent to which it should prioritise taking steps to protect water supplies from service interruptions and reduce flooding.
How many are likely to say ‘Please do nothing to protect us against service interruptions and flooding’? What the company is looking for is how customers perceive the balance 0f priorities for the use of available funds.
Customers are also to be asked about future charge levels and the extent to which they would like to see service improvements in return.
Again – who is going to say they’re happy to pay more for no better service?
The issue here is whether people would prefer both service and charges to stay the same – assuming that the necessary investment in infrastructure, which does not always show at the tap but keeps the taps running, remains the company’s automatic responsibility and should already be factored into charges levied.
From Scottish Water’s CEO
Douglas Millican, Interim Chief Executive of Scottish Water, says: ‘Scottish Water is a success story. In 10 years we’ve transformed the delivery of water services in Scotland with improved customer service, the lowest average household charges in the UK, water quality at its highest ever level and operating costs reduced by 40%.
‘We provide significant investment every year which supports thousands of construction jobs across Scotland, as well as improving services for customers.
‘But we are not complacent and, through this major consultation, we want to hear whether customers think we have identified the right priorities to build on our successes in the years ahead.
‘We need to think now about the challenges and opportunities that may arise between now and 2040, as well as steps we might need to take to ensure water services and supplies are resilient and continue to be of the highest possible quality for all our customers – from Stranraer to Shetland.’
One of Scottish Water’s proposals is to explore the development of new water connections between supply systems for larger communities.
Mr Millican says: ‘We are developing plans to ensure water services in Scotland are ready for the future. This is absolutely essential so that we can continue providing high quality drinking water to customers, protect and enhance the environment, support the economy and communities and invest in future water services.
‘For example, we are exploring the development of new water connections as a possible way of ensuring we can supply all customers with water – wherever and whenever it is needed. While Scotland generally has plentiful supply of fresh drinking water, there can from time to time be challenges such as periods of dry weather in parts of the country. New connections could help us move water around more easily to where it is needed.
‘We also want to listen to customers’ views about future charge levels and the extent to which they would like to see service improvements in return.
‘By having their say now, customers can help us make the right decisions to shape the future of water services in Scotland.’
How to take part
A dedicated consultation website has been launched with useful information for customers, interactive options and a video – here at the Scottish Water website.
Alternatively you can put your views in writing to: Freepost RTBT-EEXB-EJRT, Scottish Water, Daldowie Office, Uddingston, Glasgow, G71 7RX
The consultation runs from 14th November until 12th February 2013, after which Scottish Water will review customer feedback to help shape its final strategic projections and business plan for 2015-20, which will be published in October 2013.