Scottish Executive neglects SEPA advice on water investment

The Scottish Executive has announced that the water industry will be expected to invest £2.3 billion in a programme to improve the quality of drinking water, rivers and beaches in 2002-06, despite concern that the levels of spending will be insufficient to guarantee compliance with EU legislation.

The £2.3 billion programme was the central option of three on which the Executive consulted last January (ENDS Report 312, pp 34-35 ).

Publishing the results of the consultation in September, the Executive revealed that while 33% of respondents backed the central option, 42% favoured the "enhanced" option, costing an extra £0.7 billion. But it was no surprise when it concluded that the former provides the most attractive balance "between sustainable improvements and costs to customers."

The decision flies in the face of advice from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, whose response (ENDS Report 314, pp 37-38 ) branded the central option as "not acceptable" because it would allow breaches of EU legislation on dangerous substances caused by inadequate urban drainage systems to continue. Some 20% of poor and 22% of seriously polluted rivers are also the result of discharges from urban surface water drains.

SEPA also expressed concern that provision for first-time sewerage systems in rural areas where pollution results from excessive numbers of septic tanks was inadequate in the central option. The Executive has agreed to enhance the provision for this programme by £50 million.

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