Changes from within

As well as significant internal changes, Scottish Water is having to take account of a new abstraction charging regime and the creation of a new customer-representation body

Scottish ministers have approved the Water Environment Charging Scheme announced by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA). The new regime is part of the Scotland’s implementation of the Water Framework Directive.

Following consultation undertaken by SEPA with industry and other water users, the scheme will include several important changes, such as:

  • A new provision for abstraction using mobile plant
  • Reduced charges for small-scale and community hydropower schemes
  • Lower SEPA fees between April1 and September 30 2006 for existing activities
  • The summer abstraction season has been extended from September 30 to October 31
  • There will be no charge for making minor administrative changes to authorisations

John Ford, SEPA’s director of finance and corporate services said: “We are approaching an important milestone in implementing changes to how Scotland’s water will be managed and protected. For this reason, we were delighted with the level of response to the consultation and the input from key industry organisations to the development of the charging scheme itself.”

Rhona Brankin MSP, deputy minister for environment and rural development, added: “Scotland’s high-quality water environment is an important environmental and economic asset. In order to safeguard the status of our rivers, lochs and coastal waters, it is important that water users and the environmental regulator work closely together. I am encouraged that these charges reflect the discussions SEPA has had with industry and other water users and are a proportionate response to the need to conserve and improve a vital shared asset.”

Waterwatch Scotland is the new entity set up to look after the interests of Scottish Water customers. The new agency will, says the Scottish Executive, have more extensive powers than the Water Customer Consultation Panels it replaces.

Located in new offices in Alloa under the Executive’s Small Units Relocation Policy, Waterwatch Scotland will, as one of its key roles, handle customer complaints. But it will also have powers to make statutory recommendations to Scottish Water, Scottish Ministers, the Water Industry Commission, the Drinking Water Quality Regulator for Scotland and SEPA, on any matter relevant to customers’ interests.

A major part of its armoury will be its input into the processes by which Scottish Water’s charges are set. Gary Womersley, head of corporate services at Waterwatch Scotland, said: “We are very excited about the future for Waterwatch Scotland, and hope that this will create a medium for water customers to tell us about any problems or feedback they may have.” Waterwatch Scotland has started an information campaign to advise SW customers of its existence and the extent of its influence.

Each area (north-east, south-east, north-west, south-west and Orkney and Shetland Islands) will also still have its own panel of Waterwatch members, who will hold regular local meetings so that people’s views can be heard, in addition to its four national committees. Ian Smith, convener of Waterwatch Scotland, said:

“We want to hear people’s viewpoints on all water-related matters, including customer service, household charging and consultation. Waterwatch Scotland provides an ideal channel for people to make their opinions known.”

On launching the new agency Rhona Brankin, said: “I am delighted to welcome the launch of Waterwatch Scotland, with its new powers to strengthen water customer representation in Scotland. Our ability to provide safe, clean drinking water impacts on the well-being of Scotland’s people. And that is why it is important to give them a stronger voice – through Waterwatch – to raise their views on the best way forward for the industry.”

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