Scottish Water’s (SW) multi-billion pound programme to deliver ministerial objectives between 2006 and 2010 will be the second largest in the UK. The improvement programme includes:

  • Around £600M to provide even better quality drinking water
  • Over £100M on improved customer services by sorting poor pressure problems, tackling odour at identified WwTWs and dealing with homes flooded with sewage
  • An initial £250M to improve the environment
  • £780M to maintain its assets

An initial £160M will be made available over the four years to tackle the issue of what has been labelled “development constraints” across Scotland.

Investment of over £120M across the east of Scotland has seen work in numerous locations. At Perth and Kinross between 2002 and 2006, SW spent £30M to improve drinking water quality and the quality of coastal waters. Investment has improved water quality in the River Farg, River Almond and River Earn. WwTW discharges are now compliant with the UWWTD.

Following years of little or no investment, key parts of Perth WwTW were in urgent need of repair. Working with SEPA, SW identified the improvements necessary to bring the site up to current standards. Extension of the biological treatment plant ensured the works is able to treat wastewater to EU standards and improve discharges to the River Tay. In addition, tank scrapers were replaced, structural repairs were made and electrical monitoring equipment was upgraded.

Between 2002 and 2006, SW invested £66M in the county of Fife. SW says that this investment has played a vital role in the drive to ensure the water quality of local water courses is improved and meets strict legislative standards required under the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive. Investment has also improved local beaches and help achieve five Blue Flag ratings at Aberdour Silversands, Burntisland, Elie and St Andrews East and West Sands.

The River Tay gained further water quality improvements, especially at Tensmuir Point, which is a site of special scientific interest, an important roosting and feeding area for huge concentrations of seaduck, waders and wildfowl, as well as a haul out area for over 2,000 common and grey seals.

At West Weymss investment has finally brought to an end the practice of pumping raw sewage into the Firth of Forth. The equivalent of 1,000 bathtubs of sewage used to flow untreated from a short sea outfall into the Forth every day.

Now, full treatment is being given for the very first time in its history via two new septic tanks before being discharged into the sea from a new extended outfall pipe. Substantial amounts of partially treated sewage will soon stop flowing into the River Tay as Scottish Water finalises the construction of the new £7M WwTW for the communities of Tayport, Wormit and Newport. At present, sewage from the three villages is given very basic treatment before being discharged through sewage outfalls directly into the Tay. This major project represents an investment of £840 per customer. The existing three outfalls will be maintained. Two will only be used as storm overflows and the other as the main outfall.

All the sewage will be pumped into the new WwTW, resulting in a significantly improved level of treatment and added protection to the local waters. Tayport is part of the largest clean up of the environment to date. Alan Mansfield, project manager with Scottish Water Solutions said: “Meeting the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive is critical to ensure the wastewater from about 8,350 customers is returned to the local environment safely. There is not a

do-nothing option.

“Meeting everyone’s needs has been extremely challenging but we have worked with the community, their representatives and regulators throughout to find a solution that gives best value for money as well as balance the technical, environmental and operational needs.”

Special scientific interest

Classified as a site of special scientific interest, Tensmuir Point lies about 5km east of Tayport. This is an important roosting and feeding area for huge concentrations of seaduck, waders and wildfowl as well as a haul out area for over 2,000 common and grey seals. To the west, east and south lies Tensmuir Sands.

Mr Mansfield continued: “We fully understand the importance of the Tay as an area of high amenity for local residents and as a key visitor attraction for tourists, especially Tensmuir Sands and the Nature Reserve.

“We have worked closely with SEPA, SNH and Fife Council Development Services to ensure the building itself will compliment the flow of the landscape so as not to detract from the beautiful views. Once complete residents can be reassured that the recreational waters in the Tay Estuary will be improved and wildlife will be protected now and for future generations to enjoy.”

In the past three years, Scottish Water has spent more in new plant, equipment and service in the Highlands and Islands areas of Scotland than has been committed by any other water or local authority in recent history. Its ambitious investment programme across the region will see further multi-million pound projects come to fruition this year in what SW describes as “a flurry of activity”.

Customers in the Highland Council region and in the Northern and Western Isles are already enjoying improved quality and more reliable drinking water supplies coupled with substantial environment benefits through improvements in wastewater treatment.

Much of the region’s infrastructure that has suffered from a lack of effective investment in the past is being systematically upgraded.

Between 2002 and 2006, Scottish Water will have invested over £2,000 per home in the Highlands and Islands compared to the Scottish average is £778. To-date £30.25M has been spent renewing a total of 528km of water mains in communities across the Highlands. Additionally, the company has put £3.5M into refurbishing a total of 21.1km of sewers in communities across the region.

In Fort William a £12M WTW for the Highlands’ biggest town was opened in July last year and in Cromarty spending of more than £2M on the WwTW has improved the discharge into the Cromarty Firth.

Along the north coast, a project costing £28M replaced 11 ageing water treatment works with a new facility at Loch Calder and a massive 85km of pipeline was needed to take the new water supply to 30,000 people across Caithness and north Sutherland.

In the Orkney Isles over £8M of improvements has been completed in the first three years of SW’s investment programme with more on the way. Improvements totalling £6.25M have been completed in the Shetland Islands.

So far Scottish Water has spent £732,000 renewing a total of 11.5km of water mains in communities across Shetland and £1M refurbishing a total of 5.4km of sewers. The old water mains were cement and were laid in the 1950s.

Key projects to be completed include:

  • Lerwick: £5.5M of work has started at the town’s WwTW to improve the level of treatment. This will take around a year to complete and will improve the environment in the waters off Lerwick
  • Papa Stour: An investment of more than £500,000 in the existing WTW to provide better quality drinking water
  • Mid Yell: An investment of around £1.5M on the WTW to provide better-quality drinking water

SW has spent over £2.5M renewing a total of 39.4km of water mains in communities across the Western Isles. Also at Habost and Gravir a £1.5M project has provided communities with better quality drinking water from North Lochs. This involved laying 8.8km of water mains, 600m of which run across the bed of Loch Erisort. The existing WTW at Lemreway has been refurbished. Work to detect and repair leaks has also been carried out.

In Stornoway, £9M is going into upgrading the town’s existing WwTW. An improved level of treatment will mean cleaner coastal waters. The works will also have a new sludge treatment centre added to handle sludge from septic tanks and other centres in the area.

Geoff Aitkenhead, Scottish Water’s Asset management director, said: “Our customers are starting to see the benefits of Scottish Water’s creation, and the massive investment which is going into upgrading the infrastructure which suffered from a lack of effective investment in the past. Our customers are now benefiting from a better run, leaner industry. We are running the water industry for nearly £2M a week less than the former authorities were three years ago. Our five million customers are getting better value for money and the bills are being kept down. And all the while an extensive investment programme to improve the infrastructure is under way.”

Stewart Davis, area delivery manager for Scottish Water Solutions, said: “Our work across the Highlands and Islands of Scotland has raised a number of challenges. We have had to negotiate land access and overcome difficult terrain to reach remote locations. We always bear in mind how our projects impact on the sensitive environment of the region.

“We have great delivery partners such as GMJV, Tulloch, Morrison’s and Nuttals who engage local contractors to undertake much of the work. This has enabled many rural communities to benefit directly from the investment programme. It has been a good partnership and we’re looking forward to delivering further investment.”

Another major issue for SW management is sludge disposal. The company has launched a wide-ranging consultation on the issue, which it says is important to achieve the best long-term strategy “to deal with this increasing by-product of our treatment processes”.

Scottish water has to treat around 152,000 tonnes of sewage sludge, and the company estimates this will increase by 17% over the next 20 years, mainly as a result of the tightening of wastewater treatment standards. The breakdown of disposal routes is:

  • Land reclamation: 40% (57,000tds)
  • Energy from power generation/incineration: 35% (50,620tds)
  • Recycling to agricultural land (bio-solids): 23% (33,773tds)

The sludge is normally treated before being recycled by one of the above routes. However, some sludge currently goes to reclamation without further treatment. Future SW proposals favour a long-term strategy of recycling treated sludge to agricultural land.

According to a company spokesman: “Where there is not a suitable land bank available, an energy from waste solution will be preferred. A number of additional options will continue to be required in some areas in some circumstances, such as land reclamation and forestry. However any sludge used will be treated.” In essence, this new strategy would mean that a future balance for recycling might be:

  • Energy from power generation/incineration: 48.7%
  • Recycling to agricultural land: 47.4%
  • Land reclamation or other: 3.9%

Scottish Water says that it “proposes to move towards conventional treatment standards as a minimum for recycling of sewage sludge on land in Scotland. This will bring to an end the practice of recycling untreated sludge to land. In 2005, Scottish Water significantly reduced the quantity of untreated sludge going to land reclamation”.

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