Coll’s frustration grows over water supply woe

Councillor Mary-Jean Devon is one of the island councillors asking for help to improve access to safe water supplies for all residents on Coll.

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Frustrations are growing at the lack of response and help to get more of Coll’s homes on a mains water supply.

There are 180 homes on Coll, but only the 70 houses in the main village of Arinagour are on a mains supply. The others either have to use a public tap near the pier toilets, collect rainwater in butts or bore holes to find water.

Despite pleas directly to Scottish government ministers and to Scottish Water there has been very little progress made so far, according to a working group set up on the island to try and solve the problem.

Scottish government ministers have been asked for help to improve access to safe water, including former cabinet minister Roseanna Cunningham whose remit had included water supply before she retired at the beginning of this month.

A recent working group meeting was attended by two Scottish Water representatives, said group member Julian Senior, with the next meeting due in a couple of weeks’ time.

‘We are disappointed by the lack of any real positive feedback from the government.

‘We are disappointed that the the general tenor is that there’s not going to be any widespread water infrastructure as the basis for the way in which Scottish Water proposes to make progress.

‘At our recent meeting with two Scottish Water representatives there was a negative vibe about any form of investment in provision of mains water for existing private water supply residents.

‘The whole tenure is that they support water in the village and that’s it. It feels we are just going all round the houses both with the government and Scottish Water.

‘I can’t see any real progress at the moment, even towards just getting a feasibility study done.

‘There seems to be a feeling that perhaps in a remote community it doesn’t really matter, there’s no Brownie points for spending money in a place like this so far-removed.’

But Mr Senior said it does matter for the community’s sake now and in the future.

‘It’s not just now it’s the future development of the island that’s at stake over this. It’s the well-being of residents, it could affect young families wanting to live here or anyone wanting to set up a business.

‘It’s a problem that will face anyone who does not live in the village and is not on the mains water supply. Lack of access to mains water brings up a huge list of obstacles for Coll.’

Island councillor Mary-Jean Devon did get a letter from former MSP Roseanna Cunningham expressing her concerns to hear about the situation on Coll and urging residents to apply for a one-off means-tested government grant worth about £800 per property to get help accessing a water supply.

She also said in her letter there were no plans for widespread extension of water mains, however, the Scottish Government had plans to introduce new regulations regarding public and private water supplies.