Boost to tap water quality

After two years of investing, Scotland's water has seen dramatic improvement

It may have taken two years and an investment topping £151M but the improvements to the quality of Scotland's tap water have been dramatic. After being labelled as the 'worst in Europe', water quality across the country has made significant advances, despite continuing consumers concerns over previous health scares. Bottled water sales in Scotland soared to more than £1B a year in 2002 following outbreaks of Cryptosporidium in Glasgow and Edinburgh but now water quality has reached new highs.

This comes following a survey across Scotland by scientists on behalf on the Sunday Mail, where samples were put through a 17-test examination. All samples passed microbiology tests for Crypto., Campobylacter and Salmonella. However, findings indicated there were still some isolated problems with taste and odour, with massive differences in colour, hardness and chemical make-up between some areas. Now, according to test results, Scotland's capital, Edinburgh, can boast some of the best quality drinking water in the country, although it contains slightly more colour than water from other areas. Glasgow, the country's largest city, receives most of its drinking water from Loch Katrine, which is regarded as one of the best sources of clean water in Europe. The water passed all the tests for odour, colour, softness and chemical content was at a low level. In the far north, Ullapool's tap water was both soft and clear, with low levels of nitrates and nitrites (found in fertilisers) but had a higher level of copper (well within the limits) than any other area. Aberdeen was reported to have the clearest water in Scotland but slightly harder than average. Taste tests were 'good'.

There was evidence that in Dundee, tap water was slightly more alkaline than elsewhere and it had higher iron content, but again within limits. In Stirling, samples tasted stale and had a stale odour but chemical make-up and acidity were all well within limits. According to Tim Hooton, Scotland's drinking water quality regulator, it is expected tap water will vary throughout the country.

He said: "As water is not a standard product, it will vary from one area to another. This is perfectly normal and nothing to be concerned about. Some of these differences arise because of the geology of the different water catchment areas. Water quality can also be affected by farming practices or the work done at WTWs or indeed the age and quality of the water mains systems."

In the first two years of its existence, Scottish Water invested £742M on improvements, including £151M spent directly on delivering better quality drinking water. Scotland's water is good, clean and safe to drink and all the money spent will help ensure public health remains protected. Of the 340,000 tests carried out on Scotland's tap water, 99.36% meet European standards.

Scottish Water chief executive Jon Hargreaves said everyone in the organisation was committed to providing further improvements wherever possible. He added: "Given the amount of money which is being invested, it is extremely heartening we are seeing very real and tangible results which our customers can appreciate.

"There are no short-term fixes after so many decades of under-investment. We realise there is still a great deal of effort and investment required. We remain totally committed to adding improvement after improvement until the country has a totally modern water industry for the 21st century."

The big issue now across Scotland is the forthcoming decision by Scottish ministers on whether or not to implement mass fluoridation of the country's water supplies in an attempt to reduce the huge dental problem (especially amongst Scottish children).

Greater Glasgow NHS Board, which is urging the Scottish executive to make a decision at the earliest opportunity, will soon hold a public consultation, with a decision likely in December, on the fluoridation of its total water supply. Scottish Water has computer technology, which controls water supply allowing some areas of Scotland to have fluoride added, while other remain fluoride-free.


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