Water, wastewater and drainage policy consultation

Closed 21 Feb 2024

Opened 21 Nov 2023


This consultation seeks your views on the Scottish Government’s proposed principles and considerations in developing policy for the future of the water industry in Scotland in response to the climate emergency.  

Climate induced events both at home and around the world this summer and autumn are a stark reminder that we are in the middle of a climate crisis – it is not in the future or somewhere on the horizon, it’s happening now.

We are seeing extremes in temperatures and rainfall events that indicate a worrying trend. Temperatures in Scotland have risen over the past few decades, resulting in drier summers and associated deterioration in the quality of the water abstracted for drinking water. Shifting rainfall patterns are also leading to more intense and shorter periods of heavy rain. Winters will become milder and wetter. Sea levels are expected to rise, adversely impacting vital infrastructure located on or near the coast.

Scotland's approach to adapting to climate change

In March 2022 the Climate Change Committee (CCC) set out a series of recommendations in its independent assessment “Is Scotland climate ready? 2022 Report to Scottish Parliament Recommendations (theccc.org.uk)”. In this report the CCC identified key areas where Scotland could make improvements as to how it could better adapt to climate change. For the water industry it recommended the need to remove rainwater (often referred to as surface water) from sewers. It also recommended the need to become more efficient with the water that we use every day and the amounts that we lose through leaking pipes. Another recommendation asked that we look at the impacts of water scarcity, particularly for those who use small burns and streams for their drinking water, which are not part of Scotland’s wider public water supply, and are more likely to dry up.

The CCC also provided evidence for the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment (UKCCRA) (2022) which details the key climate risks facing Scotland now and in the future. This includes risks to businesses from water scarcity and flooding, risks to health from poorer water quality and availability, risks to water infrastructure and public water supplies. 

In this consultation we have considered how we address the risks and recommendations highlighted by the CCC. These are set out as choices that Scotland needs to consider in adapting to the impacts of climate change. The choices weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of acting now versus later. They also consider the impacts of changing behaviours compared to the cost of building new structures and facilities such as reservoirs, bigger sewers and drains so that we can continue to use water services in the way that we do today.

Read the consultation paper. The consultation paper contains full background information for this consultation. You may find it useful to read or refer to while responding.

Engagement events

We are offering information sessions on the consultation which will be run by the Scottish Government’s Water Policy team in collaboration with colleagues from Scottish Water. The purpose of these sessions is to provide you with an overview of the consultation and hear your views on how the water industry in Scotland can best respond to the impacts of climate change. Information sessions will be run via Microsoft Teams. You can sign up to one of the sessions using the links below:

Additionally, we will be holding subject specific information sessions on each of the following topics: Drinking Water, Wastewater & Resource Recovery, Drainage and Private Water and Private Wastewater Supplies. You can sign-up to any of these sessions using the links below. We would recommend that you attend one of the overview sessions before attending a subject specific session.

  • Drainage Session (covers rainwater management, including overflows) – Tuesday 23rd January, 1-3pm – Register here
  • Drinking Water Session (covers water availability and quality) – Thursday 25th January, 10-12pm – Register here
  • Wastewater & Resource Recovery session (focus on resource recovery) – Monday 29th January, 2-4pm – Register here
  • Private Water Supply and Private Wastewater Supply Session – Tuesday 30th January, 2-4pm – Register here
  • Private Water Supply and Private Wastewater Supply Session (session only for owners and users of private supplies) – Tuesday 6th February, 6-8pm - Register here

Useful information about responding to this consultation

As you complete your response, each page will provide the option to 'Save and come back later' at the bottom. This means you can save your progress and return to the consultation at any time before it closes. If you don't use this feature and leave the consultation midway through, your response will be lost.

Once you have submitted your response, you can enter your email address to get a pdf copy of your answers sent to you.

On the 'About You' page at the end of this consultation, organisations will have the opportunity to tell us more about their work and/or how their response was informed.

After the consultation has closed there will be a few months delay before any responses are published. This is because we must check any responses to be published abide by our Terms of Use.

A analysis report will usually be published some months after the consultation has closed. This report will summarise the findings based on all responses submitted. It will be published on the Scottish Government website and you may be notified about it if you choose to share your email address with us. You can also join our consulation mailing list where we regularly list newly published analysis reports (as well as new consultations).

Why your views matter

Your views will inform the development of policy for the future of the Scottish water industry and how it can respond to the impacts of the climate emergency.

There is a need for us all to play our part in how we protect our services for current and future generations. This consultation allows us to understand the views of those who use water, wastewater and drainage services across Scotland.

We want to ensure that people value the water we have and create great places for the people of Scotland to live in. Please support us in providing your views on the best ways to continue to protect these services from the impacts of the climate emergency.

What happens next

We have set out the challenges that we face as part of the climate emergency. Your views will help shape which direction we take to address these challenges. Taking a Team Scotland approach of ensuring collaboration and consensus with partners and stakeholders we will continue to develop the best ways to approach these challenges. This engagement will enable us to develop a greater understanding of how we can address these issues in a way that not only protects our services now and, in the future, but also allows us to maximise the benefits to the people of Scotland.

Thank you for providing your views on the best ways to continue to protect these services from the impacts of the climate emergency.


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