Out with the old, in with the new

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Around one pound a day doesn’t buy much these days – you wouldn’t get a takeaway coffee or a bus ticket.

But around a pound a day is what we pay, on average, for the water and waste water services provided by Scottish Water to virtually all of Scotland.

And for that pound we get a long list of things that are essential to our lives, like taking a shower, washing, cooking, heating our homes and, of course, having a cup of tea.

It’s a service that many of us take for granted because we’re used to our water and waste water services being there all day, every day. And, as a nation, we are very proud of the clean, clear water that comes from our taps, especially when we think of tap water elsewhere.

We also pay our water and waste water charges alongside our Council Tax bills, which means it’s a bit out of sight, out of mind.

Now though the service we take for granted is at a crossroads.  Much of the infrastructure, including treatment works and pipe networks, is getting old and in need of replacement. Some of it dates back to Victorian times.

The other big challenge is climate change. When it comes to water and waste water services, climate change isn’t some future problem, it’s a reality that is having an impact now. More extreme weather means there’s heavier rain that causes more flooding of our streets and homes, while drier spells in summer means there’s less water to use and sometimes the quality of it drops.

For these reasons, publicly-owned Scottish Water is going through a multi-billion pound transformation to ensure it can continue to deliver the water and waste water services we will rely on in future.

That transformation includes a big increase in the money to be invested in new infrastructure, from around £600 million a year at the moment to £1 billion a year in future.

And that means customer charges will need to increase to pay for that necessary investment.

Douglas Millican, Scottish Water’s chief executive, said: ‘I am very proud that we have been recognised as delivering the best customer service in the UK water sector.

‘But to continue to deliver the service we all rely on, we can’t stand still. We must transform Scottish Water to meet the challenges of replacing our ageing assets and responding to climate change.

‘That will mean higher levels of investment and while some of that money will come from us doing things even more efficiently and some from increased borrowing from the Scottish Government, it will also mean charges must go up.’

He added: ‘I am determined there will be no huge increases in charges. We will make our charge increase slow and steady and as fair as we can.

‘The support of our customers and communities is vital in everything we do at Scottish Water and I’m asking for their support now as we build our future water and waste water services together.’


  • Scottish Water serves 2.5 million households and almost 153,000 business.
  • It operates more than 2,000 water and waste water treatment works.
  • It is responsible for more than 30,000 miles of water pipes and 33,000 miles of sewer pipes.
  • During the regulatory period 2015-21, it invested £3.7 billion in managing its assets, delivering excellent quality water, protecting the environment and contributing to Scotland’s economy.
  • Scottish Water’s strategic plan was published in February 2020: www.scottishwater.co.uk/About-Us/What-We-Do/Our-Future-Together
  • Scottish Water’s Net Zero Emissions Routemap was published in September 2020: www.scottishwater.co.uk/About-Us/What-We-Do/Net-Zero-Emissions-Routemap