Water, wastewater and drainage: consultation analysis

Summarises the responses that we received on our consultation on the the water, wastewater and drainage principles and considerations in developing policy for the future of the water industry in Scotland in response to the climate emergency.

Views on: Drinking water

Quantitative responses

The results of the closed questions are as follows:

  • 164 respondents (33%) strongly agree and 170 (35%) agree that everyone in Scotland needs to use less drinking water
  • 314 respondents (64%) would like to know how much water they use in their home
  • 353 respondents (72%) would seek to reduce their water usage if it avoids building expensive new reservoirs and water treatment works
  • 217 respondents (44%) strongly agree and 168 (34%) agree that the process for responding to water shortages should be changed so that appropriate action can be taken as soon as it is needed
  • 295 respondents (60%) strongly agree and 118 (24%) agree that all of Scotland’s plumbing should be made lead free
  • 250 respondents (51%) would not know where to get information on how to ensure that their pipes are not affecting their drinking water
  • 235 respondents (48%) strongly agree and 170 (35%) agree that drinking water supplies, regardless of size or ownership, should be tested and inspected so that drinking water is safe

In addition to the closed questions, we posed four additional free text questions to gauge respondents views and suggestions on drinking water as a service. These free text questions received fewer responses than the closed questions.

Qualitative responses

Question 4: How do you think people and businesses could use less drinking water?

Of the 415 responses to this question, 108 (26%) referred to education as being the best means of getting people and businesses to use less drinking water. This included education in schools on water use and water efficiency as well as broader education directed towards the public on the impacts of climate change on Scotland’s water environment and how to use less water. There was a sense that the public are not currently aware of the impact climate change is having on Scotland’s water supply and that there is the need for water efficiency. An individual commented ‘A fundamental element is education and awareness, so that people think about the fact that they are using a limited and expensive resource when using water’.

The second most common response to this question was metering with 98 responses (24%). Of those that provided this response the majority referenced metering in general with a minority referring to metering only for information (11 responses) or metering with low-income support or medical exemptions where necessary (3 responses). Respondents referenced the need for behaviour change and to raise awareness of the amount of water used by households. Many referred to metering as being the best means of incentivising behaviour change and providing a fairer way of charging for water use. Those that suggested metering for information only, noted that this would help people to understand how much water they use and therefore reduce consumption. One respondent noted ‘Customers should be provided with better visibility of how much water they use as this will ensure that they are better informed and can identify opportunities to reduce consumption’.

The third most prevalent theme was utilising greywater with 93 responses (22%). Respondents who highlighted this answer suggested that greywater could be used for purposes other than drinking, such as flushing toilets, watering gardens or washing cars. Most respondents referenced this as being something that individuals could use in their homes.

Apart from the three most frequent themes, there were a few other emerging themes. The most frequent among them were behaviour change at home (83 responses), rainwater collection (82 responses), water saving domestic appliances (52 responses) and reducing leaks (45 responses).

Question 7: Would you know where to find information on using less water?

Of the 384 responses to this question, 97 (25 %) referred to the Scottish Water website as the best place to find information on using less water. The next highest response, with 85 responses (22%) referred to looking ‘online’ for information. The third highest responses with 78 responses (20%) simply advised ‘Yes’ to whether the respondent knew where to find information. While the highest response indicates that some respondents know specifically where they can find information on using less water, most respondents did not refer to a specific location.

The rest of the responses feature a wide variety of websites and sources which were all referenced in the minority. These include, but are not limited to, websites for SEPA, Waterwise, Energy Saving Trust, Business Stream and Consumer Scotland.

Question 12: What support do owners and users of private water supplies require to ensure that drinking water is safe?

Of the 360 responses to this question, 150 (42%) referred to the need for testing of private water supplies. Most of the responses under this theme referred to testing in general, 28 specifically referred to the need for regular testing, 35 noted that testing should be affordable or free and 12 referred to the need for home testing kits specifically. Testing was a very popular response, with respondents emphasising the importance of testing supplies and the need to make testing more accessible, whether in terms of affordability or ease of access. One respondent noted that the ‘Cost of water quality testing is high and onerous for private supplies’. Some also referred to the need to have support with testing, either through accompanying guidance on how to assess/improve water quality or access to experts who can provide testing.

The next most common theme was the need for more information and guidance with 87 responses (24%). This primarily centred around the need to access information to help ensure that drinking water was safe, through monitoring and improving supplies, as well as understanding where to go to access expert advice when necessary. The Drinking Water Quality Regulator noted that the Scottish Government should improve the support available to owners of private water supplies through, among other suggestions, ‘An authoritative, impartial source of advice and guidance disconnected from the regulatory enforcement mechanism; Awareness and education for owners and users of PWS to raise awareness of risk and potential protective measures they can take’.

The third most prevalent theme referred to it being the responsibility of the owner/user of the private water supply to ensure that drinking water is safe with 22 responses (6%). Many referred to owning a private supply as being a ‘choice’ and it therefore being up to the individual to ensure their water is safe to drink.

Apart from the three most frequent themes, there were a few other emerging themes. The most frequent among them were the need for financial support (19 responses), a support service (19 responses), safeguarding of catchment areas (18 responses), education (17 responses) and support connecting to the mains supply (17 responses).

Question 13: Do you have any further views on public and private drinking water supplies?

Responses to this question featured a broad range of views. Of the 226 responses to this question, 16 responses (7%) referred to the need to educate the public on the demands placed on water services and the need to reduce water consumption. Many respondents suggested this would help to create behaviour change. Some respondents specifically mentioned education in schools but most referred to education of the broader public.

The second most frequent theme among the responses to this question was the view that infrastructure should be upgraded, with 10 responses (4%). Respondents referred to upgrading infrastructure such as pipes, in order to reduce leaks and bursts, and assets such as reservoirs, in order to address water shortages.

There were two responses to this question which each received 8 responses (4%), the first of these related to the need to protect catchment areas. Some respondents referred to their private water supplies being negatively impacted by changes to catchment areas with many respondents mentioning impacts due to forestry activities or wind farms. In relation to reducing leaks, which also received 8 responses (4%), respondents referred to the need to address public mains leakage and upgrade the water supply system.

There were a range of other responses to this question, including the need for behaviour change (6 responses), which was also a common theme for the above question in relation to using less water. Other responses included the need to keep Scottish Water in public ownership, the requirement for more information and guidance mainly for private water supply users, the need to protect private water supplies, support for collecting rainwater and utilising greywater, support for connecting private supplies to the mains supply, and a suggestion that water fountains/top-up taps should be more widely available.

Engagement sessions

There were three engagement sessions specifically focussed on drinking water, including private water supplies. Comments on drinking water were also made at engagement sessions covering the entire consultation, including tailored sessions with key stakeholders. The main themes from the feedback received at these sessions have been detailed below.

One of the commonly raised themes regarding drinking water during the engagement sessions was the need for water efficiency. There were discussions on the need for the perception around water to change. It was suggested that the public are unaware that there can be water scarcity in Scotland and that this misconception can lead to water being used inefficiently. There was particular interest in why Scotland uses so much more drinking water than some other European countries. While there is not yet a definitive answer, this could be down to metering in other countries as well as the undervaluing of water as a resource in Scotland.

One of the main suggestions for combatting water inefficiency was raising public awareness of water scarcity and actions that they can take to reduce consumption. There was also extensive discussion of metering, particularly around its benefits as an incentive for reducing drinking water consumption. However, there was also debate about the potential upfront costs of implementing metering and the limitations of metering as a tool to reduce water usage. These views on promoting water efficiency and introducing metering were also reflected in the consultation responses.

Additionally, there were other suggestions for how individuals could use less water which were similar to some of the responses seen in the consultation, including behaviour change at home, collecting rainwater and reducing leaks in homes.

In relation to private water supplies, feedback addressed a number of concerns for owners and users. This included the need to protect catchment areas, particularly from wind farms and forestry, in order to protect water sources. Some participants detailed issues they have had with their supplies since the introduction of wind farms nearby.

There was also support for more information and guidance for owners and users of private supplies, with suggestions covering training courses, a means to share knowledge with other owners and users, as well as a central database or location for up-to-date information on how to manage water supplies. There was also support for an increased grant amount to help owners and users reach an adequate standard of drinking water quality.

In relation to connecting to public supplies, some participants did not want to connect to the public supply while others emphasised the high costs associated with connection to the mains supply. Members of Local Authorities also expressed that funding can be an inhibitor to getting private supplies connected to the mains.

Additional note

Some respondents to this section of the consultation were unsure of the definition for ‘drinking water’. Some respondents took this to mean water that is drunk rather than water that is collected, treated and distributed to homes and businesses for a wide variety of purposes including drinking, washing, cooking, watering our gardens, and hygiene. This was explained in the consultation paper but we would like to take this opportunity to clarify that the latter definition is the one we are working with.


Email: waterindustry@gov.scot

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