Scotland the Hydro Nation - Prospectus and Proposals for ... - RSPB

Scotland the Hydro Nation - Prospectus and Proposals for ... - RSPB

RSPB Scotland response March 2012

Scottish Government Consultation “Scotland the Hydro Nation -

Prospectus and Proposals for Legislation”

RSPB Scotland response

RSPB Scotland is part of the RSPB 1 , which speaks out for birds and wildlife, tackles the

problems that threaten our environment and promotes the conservation of wild birds and their

habitats. We are supported by nearly 90,000 members in Scotland, with a strong membership

base in rural areas as well as in towns and cities. We have practical experience of managing

terrestrial, aquatic and coastal habitats for conservation, farming, forestry and other enterprises,

and of providing advice to land managers. RSPB Scotland manages more than 68,000 hectares

of land, much in management agreements with local farmers, crofters and graziers. Our land

management interests cover a wide range of habitats and geographic areas within Scotland. We

undertake biological and economic research to underpin our policy analysis and advocacy. We

also have experience of environmental education and training for all ages. The RSPB is the

BirdLife International partner in the UK.


RSPB Scotland welcomes this opportunity to comment on theHydro Nation’ vision and the

Water Resources Bill provisions. Scotland’s water resources are essential for providing

drinking water, producing food, sustaining world-renowned businesses and supporting native

biodiversity, all of which are dependent upon a clean and abundant supply of water that is used

sustainably. Therefore, any future development of water industry activities must not happen at

the expense of the resource upon which it depends.

In his foreword to the consultation, Alex Neil MSP states “Our commitment to the low carbon

economy will not only attract early investment in renewable energy and carbon capture technologies, but

also allow us to reap economic and environmental benefits from our natural resources, including water”.

We remind Government that ‘reaping economic benefits’ from natural resources should not

happen at cost to the environment. At his opening address at the 2011 Low Carbon Investment

Conference, the First Minister brought attention to the potential ‘reindustrialisation’ of Scotland

through renewable energy, but affirmed that this must not occur by ‘desecrating our

environmental heritage in our mountains and glens’. We also remind Government that the

European Water Framework Directive states “Water is not a commercial product like any other but,

rather, a heritage which must be protected, defended and treated as such”. This aspiration must be

central to any vision for a Hydro Nation and the forthcoming legislation must ensure that

future activity by water industry is sustainable and that Scotland’s water environment is not


RSPB Scotland’s vision for a ‘Hydro Nation’ is one where:


The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity: England and Wales no.

207076, Scotland no. SC037654


RSPB Scotland response March 2012

pollution and overabstraction of water is minimised;

less water is wasted in industry and in households;

water leakage targets incorporate environmental costs and benefits so that wasteful

leakage is eliminated in the water infrastructure;

Scottish Water is leading the way in managing its own estate for biodiversity and

facilitating catchment management to deliver multiple benefits such as improved

drinking water quality, wildlife habitat, flood risk management and carbon storage;

Scottish Water is reducing its greenhouse gas emissions in the most sustainable way

and uses energy from appropriately-sited renewables to power its operations.

We wish to see this Hydro Nation consultation and debate culminate in a formal output, such

as a policy paper or Ministerial statement. This statement should summarise and encapsulate

the final Hydro Nation vision which must have sustainability, environmental protection and

biodiversity conservation at its heart. RSPB Scotland urges that the Hydro Nation agenda and

Bill provisions takes steps to ensure that Scottish Water has a strong role in sustainable

catchment management and, in line with the Land Use Strategy 2 , seeks to deliver multiple

benefits for Scotland. We wish to see Scottish Water tasked with producing a strategy for its

development of renewables that should involve early engagement with stakeholders in order to

maximise the output of electricity from renewable sources while minimising potential negative

impacts on the environment.

We set out our comments and views on Section 1 (the Hydro Nation prospectus) and Section 2

(provisions for the Water Resources Bill) below. For clarity, we use the same section headings

as those set out in the consultation document.

Section 1

Strategic Vision

We are concerned that the vision is lacking in any clear mention of the need to safeguard water

resources and use it sustainably. We believe that the vision must reinforce that a Hydro Nation

is one that uses water sustainably and seeks to protect, improve and enhance its water

environment. We suggest that a Hydro Nation is one where catchments are managed in an

integrated and sustainable way, delivering a range of environmental, social and economic

benefits for Scotland such as improved raw water quality, biodiversity, amenity, flood risk

management, carbon storage and climate change adaptation. Healthy freshwater ecosystems

underpin all of these services and benefits.

RSPB Scotland urges that conservation of biodiversity is central to any Hydro Nation vision.

This should emphasise that native species and habitats are important in their own right and we

have a moral obligation to protect them but it must also recognise the contribution that

biodiversity makes to the Scottish economy in terms of wildlife tourism and attracting visitors 3 .




RSPB Scotland response March 2012

We welcome the element of the vision that states Scotland’s water industry will be known for its

low carbon sustainable approaches. The industry must reduce it greenhouse gas emissions in

sustainable ways, such as reducing leakage, and using appropriately sited renewables to power

water industry operations. Water industry must align with the energy hierarchy, in terms of

seeking to reduce demand, increase efficiency and harness energy from renewable sources, as

supported by Government’s Energy Efficiency Action Plan 4 .

One part of the vision states “The value of our water resource to the economy will be increasingly

realised through the development and marketing of technologies and services and the attraction of water

intensive activities from areas of water stress”. We would be extremely concerned if Scotland were

to consider undertaking any water-intensive activities without due regard to the environment

and applying all principles of sustainable development. Abstraction places a significant

pressure on our water environment and can result in permanent loss of freshwater and

terrestrial habitats, drainage of wetlands and peatlands and subsequent loss of biodiversity.

Scotland: Creating a Hydro Nation

This section sets out four points regarding what a Hydro Nation might do: (1) Deliver Economic

Gain to Scotland; (2) Help Tackle Climate Change; (3) Raise Scotland’s International Profile, and

(4) Share Knowledge on Water Issues.

We make comments on these points elsewhere in our response; however, we have a specific

comment regarding the first one:

Deliver Economic Gain to Scotland: Utilising Scottish expertise to maximise the economic benefit of

our abundant water resources within a sound ecological context. Exploiting our expertise in governance,

advocacy and water management and building on the transformation and excellent performance record of

Scottish Water, our publicly owned water utility.

We reiterate our comments made elsewhere that development of water resources should be in

line with sustainable development principles and not seek to make economic gain at the

expense of the environment. The text highlights that any use would be within a ‘sound

ecological context’. However, this is not a common term and would require clear definition.

Rather, we suggest that the language used should instead be “the sustainable development of

Scotland’s water resource, delivering economic benefits that are consistent with environmental

and social needs.”

Scotland’s Water Resource: The Facts

Although this consultation document highlights that Scotland’s water quality is amongst the

best in the world, we remind Government that the Scotland and Solway-Tweed River Basin

Management Plans (RBMPs) recognise that there are significant pressures on Scotland’s water



RSPB Scotland response March 2012

environment. These include pollution from agriculture and sewage, abstraction and

impoundment for drinking water, irrigation and hydropower 5 . Action must be taken to address

these pressures to improve and prevent the deterioration of Scotland’s water bodies. We are

concerned that the rhetoric used in this section detracts from the huge challenge of getting

Scotland’s water bodies into Good Ecological Status and preventing deterioration of water

bodies currently in good status. Any ‘Hydro Nation vision’ that portrays Scotland’s water as

being of a high standard without highlighting the pressures that exist on the water

environment, and committing to action to address these pressures, could propagate a culture of

complacency in terms of action to meet RBMP objectives. The ambition for Scotland to play a

role in world water management is laudable. However, in doing so, Scotland must lead by

example and ensure that its water environment is improved and protected first and foremost.

The consultation document highlights the value of bottled water export from Scotland. The

process of abstraction, treatment, bottling and transportation of water is extremely energy

intensive and abstracting water for export could place unnecessary pressure on water resources.

In areas where abstraction for bottled water is clearly shown to be sustainable, companies

should be encouraged to take a sustainable catchment management approach and seek to

deliver benefits for biodiversity, for example, creating and maintaining habitats for native


Scotland and Water: Hydro Nation, an International Response

We are supportive of the ambition for Scotland to play a leading role in tackling global water

issues. RSPB Scotland is part of the UK-wide RSPB which is a member of the global Birdlife

International network. Through this network, RSPB is involved in overseas projects that seek to

safeguard drinking water supplies while delivering environmental benefits. For example, we

are working with the Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania, local people, government and

private sector in the Ulugurus to develop alternative livelihoods and improve farming methods

in order to reduce pressure on the forests and protect water supplies 6 . Given our commitment

to tackling threats to nature and wildlife across the world, we would like to see Scotland

helping with overseas ventures to tackle water crises that will not only benefit people and local

communities but also threatened species and habitats. However, while we are supportive of

sharing expertise and resources internationally, we believe that Scotland must lead by example.

In doing so, there must be a concerted effort to tackle all pressures on Scotland’s water

environment including those relating to water quality (e.g. point source and diffuse pollution)

and quantity (e.g. abstraction and impoundment of water).

This section mentions that the work of the Centre of Expertise on Water (CREW) will continue.

We would like to express support for the research that CREW does, for example its research on

natural flood management which is helping to inform how these techniques can be


Scotland’s River Basin Management Plan 2009-15



RSPB Scotland response March 2012

implemented in catchments. However, we urge that funding and resources directed to water

management research is well aligned with policy needs in order to facilitate the implementation

of sustainable land and water management.

Page 11 sets out a programme of action for a Hydro Nation, under the three strands of economic

development, international action and research excellence. This section discusses exploring

how to secure economic benefits from the water sector. Safeguards must be in place to ensure

this is sustainable and not undertaken at the expense of the natural environment. We are

concerned by the statement about attracting inward investment as a result of Scotland being a

water-rich country through “promotion of Scotland to water intensive users in water stressed locations

across UK or Europe”. Drainage and abstraction places significant pressure on our surface waters

and wetlands, and this pressure may intensify in some parts of Scotland with potentially hotter,

drier spells resulting from climate change 7 . Any future development of water industry must

fully consider climate change impacts and how we will adapt. Scottish Environment LINK has

formulated a set of principles that Scottish Government should adopt when considering climate

change adaptation. 8

We support the proposal to “Create a forward vision of what a low carbon water industry would look

like in 10 and 20 years time and develop a strategic plan to reach that point” and we would welcome

the opportunity to input and assist in development of this plan at an early stage.

Scotland and Water: The Opportunities

This section emphasises the importance of water to a range of sectors including tourism and

food and drink industries. These industries rely on the image, either real or perceived, of

Scotland’s clean and abundant water resource. In order to sustain this and the contribution

made to our economy, the pressures on the water environment must be alleviated and the

RBMP objectives met. This includes tackling diffuse pollution from agriculture, restoring

morphological alterations and addressing overabstraction.

The section highlights how Scottish Water has achieved substantial economic efficiencies and

the innovation shown by Business Stream. We are supportive of cost savings that are delivered

through water-saving measures and increased efficiency as these can also bring benefits for the

water environment and associated species and habitats. However, the quest to make economic

savings must not happen at the expense of the environment.

Energy from Water

This section states that Scottish Water is the biggest user of electricity in Scotland and goes on to

describe (1) the potential for securing energy from renewables and (2) the need to increase

water efficiency and address leakage.




RSPB Scotland response March 2012

We recognise the importance of renewable energy and its contribution towards mitigating

climate change and meeting Scotland’s ambitious carbon emission reduction targets. However,

renewables developments must be appropriately sited and managed to minimise adverse

environmental impacts. The development and management of renewables must not only

conform to legislative requirements including the Birds and Habitats Directives and Water

Framework Directive, but should seek to minimise any negative impacts on important wildlife

sites that fall outside of the protected areas network. Fluctuations in water levels related to

abstraction and impoundment for hydropower schemes can have significant impacts on rare or

threatened species (e.g. black-throated diver) that feed and nest on lochs.

RSPB Scotland believes that Scottish Water must produce a strategy to underpin its

development of renewables, including onshore wind and hydropower schemes, in Scotland.

Such a strategy must have clear cross-reference to existing duties such as Scottish Water’s

biodiversity duty 9 and should be subject to Strategic Environmental Assessment. We wish to

see water industry taking an open, transparent and engaging approach to its proposed

development of renewables, enabling stakeholders to input at an early stage and help ensure

that renewable energy generation potential is maximised and potential negative environmental

impacts avoided.

We are extremely supportive of Government’s aspiration to waste less water in households and

industry and would welcome more clarity and detail as to how it envisages this happening.

There is potential for household metering, which incorporates social tariffs to protect vulnerable

households, to be an effective means of encouraging efficient water use. We understand that

trials on household metering are being undertaken in the current investment period 10 and we

look forward to hearing how the outcomes from this work might contribute to the Hydro

Nation vision.

RSPB Scotland believes that water industry must address leakage and we wish to see

environmental and social costs valued and fully incorporated into the Economic Level of

Leakage (ELL) model. While we acknowledge the progress that Scottish Water has made in

reducing leakage in recent years, we believe that leakage remains unacceptably high. During

2009-10, 704 million litres of water were lost each day in Scotland through leakage 11 . Moreover,

we think that the target ELL of 612 million litres per day 12 is still too high, placing unnecessary

pressure on our aquatic ecosystems and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.


Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004




Scottish Water Carbon Plan 2010



RSPB Scotland response March 2012

Section 2 - Hydro Nation and the Water Resources Bill

1. Hydro Nation Duty

We set out specific comments on the draft legislation below:

Section 1(1) - insert sustainable before development

Section 1(3) – ‘other benefit’ should be defined to make clear that it includes environmental and

social benefit.

Section 1(4) - RSPB Scotland urges that peatlands are explicitly listed here. Bogs are dependent

on groundwater and, therefore, are technically covered by the WEWS Act definition. However,

there is considerable ambiguity surrounding WEWS and peatlands, for example point 1.1 of

SEPA document 13 . As peatlands constitute a significant proportion of drinking water

catchments and directly affect water quality (e.g. peatland erosion increases water

discolouration), it is critical that they are covered by this Water Resources Bill.

Section 3(1) – we recommend that WICS and DWQR are included as designated bodies. While

we understand the issue of maintaining the independence of these bodies as regulators, we

believe it is important that they could be directed to co-operate in certain elements of a Hydro

Nation duty, for example, protecting drinking water sources in catchments. The power to

direct need not be used if it was deemed to compromise their independence as a regulator.

Similarly, we agree that SEPA should be a designated body but must retain the right to

independently regulate any aspects of Scottish Water that are related to the environment.

Section 4(1) – This should also include Section 1(2) so that it is clear that Scottish Ministers must

also report as to how they have fulfilled the section 1(1) duty in a manner that is consistent with

existing functions and duties and in the way best calculated to contribute to achievement of

sustainable development.

2. Scottish Water

2.1 Principles to guide Scottish Water’s development

We believe that the principles proposed to guide Scottish Water’s forward development require

clear reference to sustainable development. This would help ensure that Scottish Water meets

its existing statutory duties regarding sustainability. Furthermore, the need for environmental

regulation must not be overlooked and should be explicitly stated in the overarching principle.

We suggest the following changes (our changes underlined):




RSPB Scotland response March 2012

Overarching principle

The essential services provided by Scottish Water in the delivery of clean fresh drinking water and the

collection and treatment of sewage must not be compromised. Scottish Ministers will expect Scottish

Water to deliver its core functions sustainably with increasing efficiency and at a standard comparable to

the best providers elsewhere. Independent quality, environmental and economic regulation will continue

to be essential to achieving this.

Principle One

Scottish Water's commercial activities should support the Scottish Government's overall purpose to

increase sustainable economic growth and in particular support the strategic objectives to make Scotland

Greener and Wealthier and Fairer.

We believe that reference should be made to sustainable development not sustainable economic

growth. Any reference to sustainable economic growth must be accompanied by a definition to

emphasise that such growth must not be undertaken at the expense of the environment i.e.

“Sustainable economic growth means building a dynamic and growing economy that will provide

prosperity and opportunities for all, while respecting the limits of our environment in order to ensure that

future generations can enjoy a better quality of life too 14 ”.

Principle Two

Scottish Water should, sustainably develop new activities and take on new functions where these are

aligned to its existing activities or where Scottish Water demonstrably has the expertise and resources to

do so.

Principle Three

Scottish Water should seek to utilise its assets and expertise to sustainably develop Scotland's water

resources as fully as possible. Scottish Water should sustainably develop new activities and take on new

functions where there is a robust business case that they will deliver strong commercial returns or other

social or environmental benefits. Scottish Water should avoid business and technical risks that are

inappropriate for an essential infrastructure provider.

2.2 New duties

It is proposed that the Bill will contain provisions to give Scottish Water new functions

regarding, for example, development of renewable energy. RSPB Scotland urges that any Bill

provisions explicitly state that new functions are undertaken sustainably. Please also see our

comments relating to renewables in the ‘Energy from Water’ section.

2.3 Clarifying commercial powers

We do not think that that the proposed amendments to section 25 of Water Industry Act will

sufficiently safeguard Scotland’s environment. We urge that ‘sustainable’ is inserted into (1A)

i.e.: The power in subsection (1) includes, in particular, power to do anything that Scottish Water

considers will assist in the sustainable development of Scotland's water resources or any of Scottish

Water's assets."



RSPB Scotland response March 2012

2.4 Powers for Scottish Ministers to lend to subsidiaries

Currently, Scottish Ministers can lend to Scottish Water and Business Stream but there are no

provisions for them to lend to other subsidiaries such as Horizons. This would enable Horizons

to be supported in their activities such as waste recycling and development of renewables. We

do not have any specific comments on the issue of lending powers but we remind Government

that all public body duties, including those relating to sustainability and conservation of

biodiversity, extend to subsidiaries such as Business Stream and Horizons. RSPB Scotland

wishes to see a public statement that reinforces that such duties exist, with the intention that

any future development of water industry ensures alignment with these duties.

3. Modernising the legislative framework

3.1 Managing Temporary Water Shortages in the Public Supply

This relates to updating existing legislation to ensure that arrangements are in place to manage

abstractions and treatment of public supply and to respond to any shortages that occur. It is

proposed that there will be an obligation on Scottish Water to make domestic customers, in

affected areas, aware of the need for water saving. However, this will not be accompanied by

any enforcement powers. This request for saving water could then be converted into a

requirement if Scottish Water seeks a TWMO from Scottish Ministers if drought conditions

escalate. This would be accompanied by enforcement powers.

RSPB Scotland is supportive of these proposals. However, we reiterate the need for households

and businesses to improve efficiency and reduce water consumption at all times, not just during

periods of low rainfall. We refer to our comments elsewhere in this response, for example, that

household metering should be explored as a means of doing this.

To help prevent and manage water shortages, it is crucial that abstraction pressure on the water

environment is addressed. SEPA is responsible for reviewing the conditions of abstraction

licenses issued under the Controlled Activities Regulations. These reviews are essential for

ensuring that license conditions are sustainable but there is little public information about

SEPA’s progress on this issue. We believe that SEPA should be under obligation to make the

review process transparent and to show how they are taking account of their biodiversity duty

in the review of licenses i.e. as well as considering demand on the volume of water available in

a particular body of water, SEPA should seek to ensure sufficient water remains to sustain


3.2 Protecting Drinking Water Sources in the Catchment

This section recognises that catchment management, in combination with treatment, could help

achieve the required drinking water standards. Sustainable catchment management can not

only enhance water quality but can be positive in terms of reducing carbon emissions,

enhancing carbon storage (e.g. through peatland restoration), improving wildlife habitat,

landscape and amenity value. Such approaches are increasingly being adopted by water


RSPB Scotland response March 2012

companies across the UK, for example the Sustainable Catchment Management Programme

(SCaMP) 15 which is successfully underway in the north of England. We remind Government

that one of the objectives of the Land Use Strategy is delivery of multiple benefits, something

which water industry could make a substantial contribution to achieving.

We believe that Scottish Water should do more to facilitate sustainable land use and catchment

management. This could include positive management of our upland and peatland areas, from

where approximately 70% of drinking water supply arises. The IUCN UK Commission of

Inquiry on Peatlands demonstrates the benefits of peatland restoration for water quality 16 . The

amount of Dissolved Organic Carbon (DOC), which gives ‘peaty water’ its brown colour, is

increasing. The process to remove DOC from water can result in a chemical reaction that

produces trihalomethane compounds which are harmful to human health. In addition, the

removal of DOC can be costly for water companies either through operating expenditure or

new investment into treatment processes. Peatland restoration, including measures such as

grip blocking, can reduce the levels of DOC in water courses and thus can be cost-effective for

water industry.

We believe that stronger duties are needed on Scottish Water and others to ensure that a

sustainable catchment management approach is pursued. To do this, RSPB Scotland would like

to see:

A duty on Scottish Water to deliver and facilitate sustainable catchment management.

An appropriate body (or bodies) assigned the responsibility of overseeing Scottish

Water’s delivery of sustainable land management. This might involve a role for WICS

and SEPA on aspects of economic benefits and compliance with WFD and other

environmental benefits, respectively.

We recognise that Scottish Water cannot deliver a sustainable catchment management

approach on its own. For example, SEPA and SGRPID have existing responsibilities in

enforcing regulations (e.g. CAR, cross compliance) that aim to protect water quality.

Therefore, this duty should extend to all relevant bodies and agencies who can

contribute to a catchment management approach, including Scottish Ministers, SNH,

Forestry Commission Scotland and the National Parks.

We would support the proposal to give powers for Scottish Water to access land to take water

samples for the purposes of identifying the source of the problem.

3.3 Prescribed Substances

We are supportive of the proposals to give Scottish Water greater powers to undertake work in

drainage catchments and to identify pollution sources. However, it is proposed that such an


16 Bain, C.G. et al. (2011) IUCN UK Commission of Inquiry on Peatlands, IUCN UK Peatland Programme,



RSPB Scotland response March 2012

approach will only be taken where it is shown to be 1) cost effective, 2) in the interests of

customers and 3) providing an environmental benefit. It is important that the test for ‘costeffectiveness’

is not only measured in monetary terms but also includes the value of

environmental costs and benefits (e.g. the cost to the environment) of not undertaking the work.

3.4 Septic tanks

We recognise that, despite being regulated under the Controlled Activities Regulations,

pollution from septic tanks remains a pressure on the water environment and research indicates

that phosphorus loading from septic tanks may be underestimated 17 . We welcome the

proposals that Government, SEPA and Scottish Water will work to increase public awareness

on septic tank maintenance and registration and we think that, for example, a campaign to

incentivise the registration of existing tanks would be worthwhile. However, it remains crucial

that SEPA uses its enforcement powers to bring remediation when a septic tank is identified as

causing a pollution problem. We also support the proposal that this Bill will bring a legal

mechanism to encourage such maintenance of communal septic tanks.

We propose that Government explores what changes could be made to the development

planning process to increase knowledge about where septic tanks are located. For example, it

could be made a requirement of planning consent for the applicant to notify SEPA of the

installation of new septic tanks. Furthermore, we would advocate a requirement for sustainable

solutions for septic tanks to be encouraged, for example incorporating a phosphate-stripping

stage in septic tanks as we have done at our nature reserve at Loch Leven.

3.5 Non-domestic Customers

This proposes that providers of business customers will be able to recover charges from

customers where, for example, a business property is lying vacant but still receiving drainage

services. We have no specific comments on these proposals.

For any enquiries regarding this response, contact:

Lisa Webb, Land Use Policy Officer (Water)

RSPB Scotland, 2 Lochside View, Edinburgh Park, EH12 9DH

Tel: 0131 317 4108 Email:

Registered Charity England and Wales Number 207076, Scotland Number SC037654

RSPB Scotland is part of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the UK-wide charity which

speaks out for birds and wildlife, tackling the problems that threaten our environment. Nature is

amazing - help us keep it that way



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