Water supply and sanitation in Scotland

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Scotland: Water and Sanitation
Flag of Scotland.svg
Water coverage (broad definition) 100%
Sanitation coverage (broad definition) 100%
Continuity of supply (%) 100%
Average urban water use (l/c/d) n/a
Average domestic water and sewer bill £29 per month [1]
Share of household metering n/a
Leakage 544 Megaliter/day (2014–15) (% n/a)
Share of collected wastewater treated high
Annual investment in WSS £487 million in 2012-13 (£91 per capita)
Share of self-financing by utilities High
Share of tax-financing Low
Share of external financing 0%
Decentralization to municipalities No
Water and sanitation regulator Water Industry Commission for Scotland
Responsibility for policy setting
Sector law Water Industry (Scotland) Act 2002 and Water Services etc. (Scotland) Act 2005
Number of service providers 1 wholesale provider (Scottish Water), 19 retail providers

Public water supply and sanitation in Scotland is characterised by universal access and generally good service quality. Water and sewerage services are provided by a single public company, Scottish Water. The economic water industry regulator is the Water Industry Commission for Scotland. It "promotes the interests of water and sewerage customers in Scotland by making sure that householders and businesses receive a high-quality service and value for money by setting prices, monitoring Scottish Water's performance and facilitating competition in the water industry". The environmental regulator is the Scottish Environment Protection Agency. Drinking water standards and wastewater discharge standards are determined by the EU (see EU water policy).

Service quality[edit]

The Water Commission measures the service quality of Scottish Water using an overall performance assessment (OPA) index, which takes into account unplanned supply interruptions, pressure, drinking water quality, responses to written complaints, ease of telephone contact, sewer floodings, sewage treatment works compliance and leakage. Scottish Water's OPA score improved from 162 in 2003–2004 to 400 in 2014–2015.[2]


Scottish Water operates and maintains over 47,000 kilometres of water pipes, 50,000 kilometres of sewer pipes, 1837 waste water treatment works (including 1206 septic tanks) and 297 water treatment works plus pumping stations, sludge treatment centres, reservoirs.[3]


In the past, twelve Regional and Island Councils (local authorities) were responsible for water supply in Scotland, alongside other local services. Unlike in England and Wales, the assets of the industry were owned by local governments, many of which were not governed by the Conservative Party at the time of the water privatisation in England and Wales in 1989. However, in the early 1990s, the UK government merged the Regional and Island Councils into three regional public service providers to prepare them for privatisation. In 1994, voters in half of Scotland defeated the privatisation proposal in the Strathclyde water referendum.

In 2002 the Scottish Parliament passed the Water Industry (Scotland) Act 2002 merging the three providers into a single one, Scottish Water. In 2005 it passed the Water Services etc. (Scotland) Act 2005 allowing competition for "retail services" – defined as metering, billing and customer service – to business customers beginning in 2008, while wholesale services – defined as providing water and removing wastewater – remain a public monopoly.[4] Besides Business Stream, 18 other companies have been licensed by the regulator to operate in the retail water services market.[5] The companies buy bulk water at a discount of about 25% from the retail price and compete for retail customers.[6]

Financial aspects and efficiency[edit]

Tariffs The charge for the average household bill in Scotland in 2015–16 is around £346, which is lower than the average bills of all of the private water companies in England and Wales.[7]

Investments Between 2010 and 2015, around £2.5 billion has been invested in Scotland in maintaining and improving the industry's assets, with £1 billion of this committed to improving drinking water quality, environmental and customer service performance.[8]

Efficiency After its creation in 2002, Scottish Water was able to make large gains in efficiency, reducing operating expenditure by almost 40% between 2001–02 and 2009–10. Over the course of the 2010–15 regulatory period Scottish Water's controllable operating expenditure (spending that management is reasonably able to affect) increased by around 1.5%. The level of leakage at Scottish Water has declined from 1104 Megalitres (Ml)/day in 2005–2006 to 544 Ml/day in 2014–15.[9]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]