Scottish spending increases on sewerage infrastructure

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has called for increased levels of investment in sewerage infrastructure and sewage and urban drainage treatment.


SEPA says that despite the expenditure required by the ECUWWTD, sewage will still be one of the top two causes of pollution in Scotland by 2010. It also identifies the continuing and growing problem of pollution from urban drainage.

In the report – ‘Improving Scotland’s Water Environment‘ – SEPA sets out how it proposes to improve and protect the country’s water environment up to 2005. SEPA Director of Environmental Strategy, Tricia Henton said: “We intend to achieve major improvements in Scotland’s water environment and we have set national improvement targets for rivers, estuaries and coastal waters. Our first targets have been set for the year 2000. On the basis of our experience in working to deliver them, we will confirm what are currently provisional targets for the year 2005.”

The report states that more than 4000km of Scottish rivers are classified as polluted. The agency says it will work to achieve a 20% reduction in the overall length of poor and seriously-polluted rivers by the end of 2000 and will aim to increase this to a 45% reduction by the end of 2005.

Approximately 250km of coastal waters are also classified as polluted. SEPA plans a 15% reduction in the overall length of poor and seriously polluted coastal waters by the end of next year and will aim to increase this to a 50% reduction by the end of 2005.

And, nearly 31.5km2 of estuarine waters around Scotland have been labelled as polluted as well. By the end of 2000, SEPA says it will achieve a 20% reduction in this figure.

Colin Bayes, SEPA’s head of water policy said: “Sewage effluent is the main cause of pollution in Scotland. An historic legacy of under-investment has left the public sector with a list of poorly-treated sewage discharges and sewers which are at or beyond their hydraulic capacity.”

Virtually all sewage pollution identified by SEPA comes from the public sewerage network. The agency estimates that more than 1000km of rivers are polluted by discharges from STWs and 300km by discharges from CSOs.

The majority of funding required to deal with existing sewage pollution must come from the three publicly-owned water authorities which raise the bulk of their funds from charges on domestic, commercial and trade effluent. Clearly ,charging levels will determine the rate at which they can address the problem.

SEPA stressed that these forms of pollution affect rivers, lochs and coastal waters close to urban centres that potentially have high amenity and recreational value. More resources are needed to address the backlog of problems that will otherwise continue to cause pollution in the future. SEPA intends that the report should contribute to debate within Scotland on resource levels that can be directed towards improving the water environment.

Tricia Henton said: “The Scottish Parliament will introduce major changes to the political decision making process in Scotland. SEPA will ensure it contributes objective information on the state of Scotland’s environment to assist Parliament in undertaking its functions.”

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