Hydro Nation Forum minutes: December 2018

Minutes from the meeting of the Hydro Nation Forum on 5 December 2018 at Apex House, Edinburgh.

Attendees and apologies

In attendance

  • Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (Chair)
  • Barry Greig, Scottish Government (Vice Chair)
  • Craig McGill, Scottish Government
  • May East, UNITAR
  • Neil Gordon, EnviroCentre
  • Gail Walker, Citizens Advice Scotland
  • Steven Hutcheon, Highlands and Islands Enterprise
  • Sarah Wade, Alliance for Water Stewardship
  • Rachel Helliwell, James Hutton Institute
  • Neil Kitching, Scottish Enterprise
  • Barbara Barbarito, Scottish Water
  • Allan Reid , SEPA
  • Michael Gormley, Heriot-Watt University
  • Maricela Blair, Hydro Nation Scholar
  • Nick Mannix, Strathclyde University
  • Alan MacDonald, British Geological Survey
  • Jim Panton, Panton McLeod
  • Peter Robinson, Scottish Canals
  • Chris Spray, Dundee University
  • Arlene Goode, Arup
  • Sharon Pfleger, NHS Highland

Items and actions

1. Cabinet Secretary opened the 13th meeting of the Forum and welcomed those in attendance. She thanked Neil Kitching and Scottish Enterprise for hosting the meeting. Cabinet Secretary confirmed that the minutes of the previous meeting had been agreed and published on the Scottish Government website.

2. Cabinet Secretary brought the Forum’s attention to the agenda and briefly summarised minor amendments to the Hydro Nation strategy, which were agreed by the Forum:

o   update reflecting the launch of HNWIS.2
o   updates reflecting progress on HN International activity 

3. Cabinet Secretary introduced Rachel Helliwell who provided background and showed short video prepared to mark the recent successful inauguration of the Hydro Nation-funded modular wastewater treatment project at Berambadi school, Karnataka State, India. 

4. Cabinet Secretary thanked Rachel and noted that the DFM had mentioned the project during Cabinet following his attendance at last week’s formal inauguration event in Bangalore. She noted that he was deeply impressed with what has been achieved and the commitment of all involved in this ground-breaking project.

5. In discussion, Barbara asked Rachel about the scale and she confirmed that the project could be scaled up for larger buildings such as hospitals. Allan Reid and Alan MacDonald both raised points about maintenance of the project. Rachel noted that this was a key issue that the project had identified from its inception. A maintenance plan had been developed and the tech used can all be locally sourced. Gail had a question about rural provision and whether the tech could be used in a contained basis in Scotland. Rachel confirmed that the project was not India specific and could easily be adapted for use in other countries. 

6. Cabinet Secretary moved the meeting to Agenda Item 3 and introduced Sharon Pfleger who gave a presentation about Scotland-wide work under the Green Breakthrough Partnership header, supported by Hydro Nation, which aims to reduce the unintended release and downstream levels of pharmaceuticals in Scotland’s water environment.

7. Cabinet Secretary thanked Sharon for an interesting presentation on a fascinating subject and asked whether research had been done on educating the public on the appropriate use of antibiotics. Gail commented that changing attitudes was very challenging. Sharon confirmed that this was something that would be looked at as well as working with drug manufacturers to make them ‘greener’ from the outset. 

8. Cabinet Secretary moved the meeting to Agenda Item 4 and introduce Arlene Goode of ARUP who provided an overview of the new iteration of the Hydro Nation Water Innovation Service. 

9. Jim Panton asked about engagement with SMEs. Barry noted that this had been a concern during the first phase of HNWIS and that a lot of work had been going on to ensure that the new iteration secured maximum engagement. Barry noted that there was a challenge in that there was no specific trade association for the water industry. Arlene noted that the first HNWIS event would take place in February 2019 in Glasgow and that ARUP are keen to engage with SMEs there. Arlene noted that further details would be confirmed in due course.

10. Cabinet Secretary thanked everyone in attendance for his or her views and handed the Chair to Barry Greig as she departed for Parliament. 

Agenda Item 5

11. Barry reiterated the Cabinet Secretary’s call for new ideas to refresh the Hydro Nation Strategy for further discussion at the next meeting. He then moved the meeting to Agenda Item 5.

Action point 1: Forum members to consider fresh ideas for the hydro nation strategy.

12. Barry drew member’s attention to Paper HNF 13.2. Barry noted that he would reference some key highlights from the paper. He noted the action that the SG were taking on plastic pollution following the ‘Blue Planet effect’. Barry invited Barbara to provide an update on Scottish Water’s ‘Your Water Your Life’ campaign. Barbara noted that the first water refill point was now operational outside the Scottish Parliament and that the second was due to become operational in Ayr shortly. She further noted that there was operational and maintenance concerns that would be monitored closely.    

13. Barry congratulated Scottish Water on the completion of the Shieldhall Tunnel and the engineering awards it had recently won. Barry noted that the Cabinet Secretary visited Scottish Water’s Intelligent Control Centre to mark its completion in July 2018. Barbara noted that just after flows had started on the tunnel it had proved its worth in preventing flooding in Glasgow following a significant rainfall event.

14. Barry noted that construction had begun on Glasgow’s Smart Canal and invited Peter Robinson to provide an update on this. Peter noted that this was an extremely challenging project to get off the ground and is a major collaboration between Glasgow City Council, Scottish Canals and Scottish Water. Peter noted that there had been significant interest from unlikely sources including the Environment Agency. A number of developments will commence throughout 2019 and live demonstrations will be available from 2020.

15. Barry noted the recent Vibes Awards, in which there had been a significant number of winners within the water community. He congratulated Aqualution Systems who won the main Hydro Nation Water Innovation Award – they manufacture hypochlorous acid to wash fruit and vegetables using fewer chemicals, and less water and electricity.

16. Barry noted the significant progress under the Water Futures Programme in Malawi and invited Nick Mannix to provide an update. Nick noted that the mapping exercise was making significant progress and had now been completed in just over 50% of Malawi. He noted that Bob Kalin and Jon Rathjen were currently in Malawi meeting with high profile political figures. Nick further noted that SEPA were currently engaged with the recently formed National Water Resources Authority. Barry invited Allan Reid to provide an update at this point. Allan noted that he had received positive feedback from colleagues involved and that they had been meeting with Board members and talks had been constructive.

17. Barry noted ongoing engagement in India and Rachel’s earlier presentation. He noted that this was terrific news for Hydro Nation and Scotland. It was particularly good to get the Deputy First Minister’s endorsement of the project during his visit to India.

18. Barry informed the Forum that, following their participation in a Hydro Nation/SDI trade mission to India in December 2017, Celtic Renewables had struck a Joint Venture partnership with Indian renewables firm, Dross Energy. They will use a process developed by the Napier University spin-off that converts residues from whisky production into a new advanced biofuel – biobutanol – a sustainable fuel that power vehicles. This will help India's brewing and distilling industry clean up its act instead of polluting the river Ganges.

19. Barry noted that in supporting Hydro Nation Commercial activity the Scottish Government was currently looking at options on how best to facilitate continued Hydro Nation activity with the European Commission following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. He further noted that discussions were ongoing to use the OECD Governance Review outcomes to develop an Action Plan to strengthen water resource governance in Scotland.

20. Barry noted that five new scholars had now started on the Hydro Nation Scholarship Programme and invited Maricela to provide an update. Maricela noted that following today’s discussions that a fellow scholar (Lydia Niemi) was looking at engineering solutions to the efficient removal of pharmaceuticals to reduce treatment costs and support improved environmental and public health. She further noted that two of the new scholars Elliott and Victoria had been in India at the inauguration event. Maricela noted that Juan Carlos and Bas had both successfully completed their Vivas recently. She also noted that she is writing a paper on microplastics in the River Clyde and its effects on Waste Water Treatment.  

21. Sharon Pfleger noted, following Maricela’s update, that she would be holding a meeting in the Highlands around March/April 2019 and would extend an invite to anyone with an interest.

22. Barry extended his congratulations to Juan Carlos and Bas and noted that discussions were ongoing to develop Alumni to keep in touch with scholars through meetings and to ensure their research was used appropriately.  

Agenda Item 6

23. Barry moved the meeting on to Agenda Item 6 and invited Gail Walker to provide a Consumer Focus update.

24. Gail noted that CAS has been working quite closely with other stakeholders on private water policy as part of the Rural Provision working group. CAS has so far led on two research projects on private water supplies, jointly with DWQR. This year’s research looked at support private water communities need to improve water quality and involved 61 participants across five local authority areas. The report will be published in January 2019.

25. Note from presentation

Not all properties in Scotland are on the mains water supply. There are over 22,000 PWS registered in Scotland, supplying approx. 3.6% of the population (nearly 196,000 people). These owned and managed by individuals or communities, rather than by Scottish Water who supplies everyone else. Water sources include: boreholes, wells, springs, or burns. There are in mostly rural or remote areas (e.g. Argyll and Bute: a third of the population are on PWS). Unlike those on the public network, where the cost to serve is covered by everyone’s charges, those responsible for PWS bear the full cost to serve (including treatment and maintenance) which can be very expensive to achieve complaint water quality.

Two key risks to PW communities are 1) poor water quality: raw water contaminants can include bacterial or metals AND inadequate treatment or maintenance can lead to health risks such as e.Coli and 2) running out of water with no back up source during long hot summers.

There are two types of supplies: 1) regulated supplies (Supplies providing water to more than 50 people, more than 10m3 daily, or to non-domestic properties -such as those used by businesses, public or third-sector organisations), and 2) unregulated supplies (less than 50 people, supply less than 10m3 per day, and only provide water to domestic properties). Regulated supplies are risk assessed every 5 years and tested annually by LA. Unregulated supplies remain largely untested so water quality can be at times a ‘best guess’.

CAS, in partnership with the Drinking Water Quality Regulator, carried out research in 2018 to try to understand what support private water communities need to help them improve their water quality; get a better understanding of what would help them achieve a sustainable supply of safe drinking water, and provide evidence that will inform ongoing Scottish Government strategies, in the longer term, to improve the quality of drinking water within PW communities. Research was conducted with 61 participants across five local authority areas using 17 in-depth interviews and 4 focus groups.

The findings included:

  • for those responsible for managing a PWS, it can be a complex and difficult task: many do not know what their raw water contains therefore may not treat it effectively, and remain at risk from health issues
  • community members may lack technical knowledge, sufficient funding or access to appropriate help and support to put the right solution in place. Most unregulated PW communities are largely left to their own devices
  • although some help is available, there is no comprehensive framework in Scotland to ensure PW communities have access to the information, advice, training and funding they need, in a way that they need it
  • some LAs are more involved and proactive than others in supporting communities and offering advice– post code lottery
  • relations between PW communities and LAs can be dysfunctional: LAs can be viewed with suspicion and kept at arm’s length; some people don’t know that LAs should be their first point of contact and therefore don’t receive the help and support they need
  • people often prefer to go to friends and neighbours for advice – which if incorrect, may lead to poor water quality. Often advice is issued based on an opinion rather than a scientific solution
  • for many, treating and maintaining water supplies may be unaffordable. This can disincentivise people to invest in the treatment they need, and can compromise health
  • the process of identifying the most appropriate treatment for the type of raw water present is complex and may result in the wrong solution being purchased – and indeed require further investment at a later date
  • the use of contractors to diagnose and install the right treatment system or maintenance regime also comes with risks:
  • they may not purchase the right solution to address the specific water quality issues present
  • quality of work may not be up to standard and securing redress can be difficult
  • relationships between those sharing a supply can be strained, leading to unfair financial arrangements and at times a breakdown in treatment leading to health risks
  • communities are largely unprepared for water shortages, such as during long, hot summers (2018) or seasonal increases during tourist season


  1. PWS communities need a strong and consistent framework of support to help them secure a safe supply of drinking water, including training, capacity building, advice and signposting, funding, connection to the mains where possible to do so (dependent on willingness to connect and affordability)
  2. Supplemented by access to comprehensive information on the rights and responsibilities of PWS owners and users
  3. The provision of affordable and appropriate treatment solutions for water supplies such as an ‘under the sink’ kit that treats water (ongoing work by Scottish Water and WICS to look at this)
  4. A mechanism of support that ensures people make the right choices, without having to choose between health and financial security
  5. Minimum and consistent level of support from LAs; LAs improving their community engagement and establishing better relations between themselves and private water communities
  6. More co-working and joint solutions between LAs and communities leading to improved trust and confidence
  7. Further consideration is needed on:
  • how to make more of existing tools such as risk assessments and water safety plans – particularly for unregulated supplies
  • on how PW users, including unregulated supplies, can better understand what they need to do to more effectively and safely manage their water supply

Action point 2: Gail to share report when published. 

26. Barry thanked Gail and noted that it was timely given the effects of this summer’s unusual dry weather, which adversely effected PWS. Sharon noted that health protection was a huge factor for PWS. She noted that on a training day she had with the Local Authority she had noted how users of PWS were wary of support from the Local Authority. Sharon had further noted that one user had been unable to replace the UV bulb and another was using a pair of tights as a filter.

27. Barbara noted that connection to the mains supply was often tricky in these areas given the rural location. She noted that Scottish Water are doing a lot of research and innovation work in this area including working with CREW on solutions and Scottish Enterprise on the ‘Can Do’ open innovation challenge with 5 companies winning funding for their projects due to commence in March 2019. Barbara noted that Scottish Water are looking at future water treatment without the need for large pipes and Waste Water Treatment Works.

28. Barry moved the meeting on to Agenda Item 7 – member updates.

Agenda Item 7

29. Sarah Wade noted that AWS had a successful annual forum. Over 125 representatives from the private and public sector as well as civil society from around the world attended the Forum. AWS had an increase in membership, which now includes Nestle and Coca-Cola. In 2019, AWS will be working with partners to certify sites in India and Malawi.  

30. Alan MacDonald noted that British Geological Survey (BGS) had completed mapping aquifers across Scotland and that members had been provided with a link to the report. Alan noted that one take away from the report was the high manganese content in many aquifers. He further noted that BGS are developing a probe that will estimate TTCs. Following the earlier discussion on PWS, Alan noted that user loved their supplies.

31. Jim Panton noted previous experience in providing UV filters for PWS. He noted that PWS owners were often slow to pay contractors, which made it unattractive. Jim noted that there needs to be a shift in attitude to make the industry attractive to contractors.  

32. Rachel noted that JHI would be hosting an event on World Water Day 2019 – this would be on resilience to climate change. Further details would be provided in due course.

Action point 3: Rachel to keep forum updated on arrangements for World Water Day event.  

33. May East provided an overview of the results of the autumn 2018 Local Water Solutions for Global Challenges Programme. May noted that there had been some concern that the quizzes were tricky for non-English speaker so they would be simplified for the next programme run in spring 2019. May was keen that future meetings of the Forum had a focus on SDG 6. She noted that in New York in July 2019 the High-level Political Forum, United Nations would be meeting to follow-up and review the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals. May noted the UN had a focus on vertical integrations and that Scotland was doing a lot of good work that would be excellent examples to promote at this event.

34. Alan MacDonald noted that a BGS project had started in Glasgow, which is investigating how much heat can be taken from waters in abandoned mines under the city. He further noted that BGS had attended Africa Water Week in Gabon and had secured agreement for a groundwater desk/expert to be permanently based there.

35. Chris Spray noted that his current focus was on land management and water run off – changing the natural flow to help with flooding. He noted that Sarah Hendry was looking at pharmaceuticals in water. Chris noted involvement in the Edinburgh / Lothians Drainage Partnership looking at Blue/Green infrastructure. He further noted that he would be attending a cross border land use strategy meeting tomorrow in the Scottish Borders.

36. Michael Gormley noted that he was still waiting on a response from the EU MPA project. He noted that he was engaged in discussion around plastic in the marine environment.

37. Jim Panton noted completion of the Institute of Water Rising Stars programme for 2019 and thanked members for their support.

38. Barbara noted that Scottish Water’s ‘Shaping the Future’ consultation, which had received over 16,000 responses. She noted that it set out three ambitions including keeping costs low, sustaining reliability and customer service. Following the consultation, it will now include a fourth ‘helping to secure a flourishing Scotland’. Barbara noted that Scottish Water had been working with Stirling Council to harness energy from waste water, which will distribute heat to St Modan’s High School, the Robertson Trust Barracks Development, Moray House, Jubilee House, and the future Public Sector Innovation Hub and phase 1 will commence in 2019.

39. Neil Kitching noted that Scottish Enterprise had been working on two bids for EU projects, which includes one on decentralised waste water treatment in the Netherlands which the James Hutton Institute will lead on, and another on emerging aquatic pollutants involved 25 countries.

40. Barry thanked everyone for his or her updates and feedback. Barry further thanked those in attendance for their participation and closed the meeting.

Action point 4: the next meeting will be held in June 2018. Craig McGill to arrange new date with PO and inform members.  


Email: waterindustry@gov.scot

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