Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Bill
This Bill was published just before the summer
recess and will be considered by the Environment Committee in
the autumn. The Bill sets out new arrangements for protecting
the water environment, and changes how new connections to the
public water and sewerage infrastructure are to be funded. This
consultation briefing sets out the main provisions of the bill
and some of UNISON Scotland's initial concerns to enable members
in the industry to feed back views to their branches.
Part One - Protection of the Water Environment
- Sets out the general purpose of protection of the water environment
- Defines the water environment and sets out the duties of public
authorities, including the Scottish Ministers and SEPA to protect
- Provides for the establishment of river basin districts -
and their characterisation by SEPA (there is a minor reference
to "economic analysis" - but not as strong as the
economic characterisation requested by UNISON in our response
to previous consultation).
- Provides for the establishment of a register of protected
areas and for Scottish Ministers by order must identify waters
used for the abstraction of drinking water - SEPA to prepare
and maintain the register.
- Requires an environmental objective to be set for each body
of water in a river basin district and that monitoring of the
status of the water environment in each river basin district
is carried out
- Requires the preparation of river basin management plans for
each river basin district
- Describes the procedures for preparation, approval and review
of these plans including the requirements for publicity and
consultation - again with a key role for SEPA
- Requires the creation of river basin district advisory groups
and allows for the creation of sub-basin plans
- Places a duty on public authorities including the Scottish
Ministers to have regard to river basin management plans where
Regulation of controlled activities (Section
- Enables provision to be made by regulations for or in connection
with regulating any activity, and in connection with the fixing
of charges for water services, for the purposes of protecting
the water environment.
- Enables provision to be made by regulations, for or in connection
with remedial and restoration measures necessary for the purposes
of achieving the environmental objectives.
- All those with a polluting discharge or who abstract or impound
water or who carry out engineering works near watercourses will
be required to notify SEPA - SEPA will then decide if that activity
needs to be controlled in order to satisfy the environmental
objectives for the relevant water body
Water Use Licences
- Water use licences give specific authorisation that allows
a water user to carry on one or more of the controlled activities
at a particular site.
- Water Use Licences will be activity and site specific rather
than person specific so that it will be simple to transfer them
from one operator to another.
- It will also be possible for SEPA to issue "single water
use licences" - this would cover permissions for a number
of different water uses at a particular site or for similar
but related activities over a wider geographic area . The regulator
will be able to include management agreements as agreed between
different water uses in water use licences - such agreements
will allow water users in a particular area to co-ordinate their
activities to better protect the water environment and their
own interests. It is envisaged the regulator would be involved
at an early stage in the development of the terms of such agreements,
once agreed and acceptable to SEPA they would become enforceable
by virtue of their being incorporated into the water use licences
for each party to the agreement.
- SEPA will be able to develop nationally applicable standard
licence conditions that could be appended to water use licences
for particular types of activity.
Abstraction and Impoundment
- Distinct from management agreements SEPA will draw up Water
Resources Management Strategies to help them carry out the regulation
and control of the abstraction and impoundment of water.
- It is likely these strategies would be drawn up at sub-district
- Strategies would report on SEPA's assessment of the risk to
the environment posed by abstractions and impoundments. They
would also give an indication of the thresholds at which SEPA
was likely to look to impose restrictions on abstractors and
- The Bill will provide for regulators to recover the costs
incurred by undertaking its functions in relation to the water
environment by means of charging schemes, which will be applied
at all, levels of control. Charging schemes will be subject
to consultation and Ministerial approval.
- Regulations will give SEPA the ability to undertake works
to restore the environment themselves and in some cases to recover
the costs from landowners or other responsible parties.
- Regulations will also allow SEPA to serve notices on landowners
or other responsible parties to require them to undertake restoration
- The Bill will allow Ministers to make provisions for call
in as a part of the regulations establishing the control regimes.
- The Executive will consult again on these issues in the course
of drawing up the regulations.
- The Directive requires the controls to be in place by the
end of 2009 and operational by 2012.
- The Executive believes a better option would be to phase in
the controls earlier and over a longer time period. It intends
to start implementation of the new controls from 2005 after
the first characterisation report has been completed. However
it says it will do this in a phased and controlled manner, but
the controls will not become effective until 2012!
- An exception to this is in cases where a particular pressure
is having a serious and significant impact on the environment
and was not adequately controlled by existing legislation.
Part Two Water and Sewerage Services
- Amends Section 1 of the Sewerage (Scotland) Act 1968 and section
6 of the Water (Scotland) Act 1980 to make further provision
regarding Scottish Water's duty to provide water and sewerage
services at reasonable cost.
- Amends the duty of Scottish Water to provide sewerage "only
provided it is practicable to do so at reasonable cost".
The new Bill allows the Scottish Ministers to specify Scottish
Water's duty to provide sewerage, and to determine regulations
for setting out what is a "reasonable cost".
- Allows an aggrieved person to appeal to Scottish Minister
on the grounds that a determination of reasonable cost has not
been made properly in accordance with regulations. Scottish
Ministers will determine the issue following consultation with
- Scottish Water is not required to take pipes to a connection
point for buildings where an agreement is in force between Scottish
Water and another person for them to carry out this action.
- Section 27 makes detailed provision on construction standards,
connection agreements and take-over conditions. It specifies
that an agreement by Scottish Water to take over a sewage treatment
works is subject to the works complying with the new construction
standards set out in the Bill, also to any conditions that Scottish
Water has made under the Bill. It also provides that the take-over
of a sewage treatment works should not take effect until any
security required as part of an agreement under the Bill
has been provided.
- It also provides that an owner can only connect their drains
or sewers to those of Scottish Water if they meet the required
construction standards, and (if required by Scottish Water),
the owner has entered into a connection agreement with Scottish
water and has provided adequate security.
- Section 14A relates to private sewers and sewage treatments
works. It makes provision as to the construction standards that
drains, private sewers and private sewage treatment works must
meet. Scottish Ministers must consult Scottish Water and any
other persons they consider appropriate before making any such
regulations, and the regulations are to be made by statutory
instrument, subject to negative procedure in the Scottish Parliament.
- Section 14B provides for take-over conditions and taking over
a sewage treatment works and for connection agreements and connecting
drains or sewers. It also confers a regulation making power
on the Scottish Ministers to prescribe conditions (and exceptions)
which must be included in these agreements.
Laying of Water Mains by Persons other than
- Section 28 provides for Scottish Water to authorise another
person to lay a main and clarifies the arrangements for subsequently
vesting the main. It provides a power for Scottish Water to
authorise another person to lay a main where this involves road
works or crossing a third party's land and transfers to the
authorised person the requirements to give reasonable notice
to interested parties and the procedure for responding to objections.
- Where the main which is intended to vest in Scottish Water
connects to a public main, such an agreement is only valid if
the main meets the construction standards provided in the Bill.
- Scottish Water can make a determination during the construction
of the main, vesting the main and its management, maintenance
and renewal instead in the person who has laid it and giving
notice of this determination. Where a main is laid by a person
other than for or on behalf of Scottish Water and the consequent
main does not connect to another main which is vested in Scottish
Water the Bill provides that it vests in the person who laid
- Scottish Water may enter into an agreement for any main to
vest in Scottish Water. Such an agreement is only valid if the
main meets the construction standards provided in the bill,
and is subject to any conditions and security Scottish Water
may require under the bill.
- Scottish Ministers are to prescribe in regulations the construction
standards which a main (not laid by or on behalf of Scottish
Water) must meet for it to vest in Scottish Water. Scottish
Ministers must consult Scottish Water and any other persons
they consider appropriate. (Again no mention of consulting with
the relevant Trade Unions).
- "Vesting conditions" may be included in an agreement
between Scottish Water and another person to allow a main to
vest in Scottish Water. These conditions could include payments
from Scottish Water to the person laying the main, and a liability
on the person who laid the main for repairs etc. Scottish Ministers
will have regulation making powers in relation to these vesting
- Section 29 Clarifies that all waterworks constructed
in accordance with section 21(1) and all water mains laid in
accordance with section 23(1) are vested in Scottish Water.
This is the technical part of the Bill, covering:
- The Crown Application
- Orders and regulations
- Ancillary provision
- Commencement and short title : Water Environment and Water
Services (Scotland) Act 2002.
- UNISON supported proposals to establish one River Basin District
covering the whole of Scotland - with provisions to identify
river basin districts by defining their geographical boundaries.
This is delivered in the Bill.
- UNISON wanted SEPA to have a lead role in river basin management
planning, however we stressed the need for additional resources
to fulfil this role. The financial impact on SEPA is mentioned
briefly in the financial sections, but there should be more
emphasis on implications for SEPA staff and resources.
- There is no mention of Trade Union involvement in River Basin
Management Plans. UNISON should look for a more specific comment
of Trade Union roles.
- UNISON welcomes the protection of the water environment, the
provisions for robust monitoring, and detailed environmental
characterisation of river basin districts. We would like to
see more emphasis on the importance of economic characterisation
of the water environment.
- We welcome the provisions to make water use licences activity
and site specific. However, the Bill does not seem to clarify
processes for transferring licence arrangements. UNISON wants
explicit commitments for operators to inform the regulator when
a change of ownership occurs to help identify ownership and
- There is no mention in the Bill of time limits on licences.
UNISON feels that it is at least important that Ministers will
have the powers to require the regulator to review a licence
in certain cases.
- UNISON wanted the regulator to be able to impose conditions
on a water use licence. However, the Bill has provisions for
SEPA to develop nationally applicable standards licence conditions.
We need assurances that this system will be robust enough.
- The Bill is not explicit on the powers available to the regulators.
UNISON would prefer to see clear and transparent guidelines
set out on the powers of the regulators within the Bill.
- UNISON hoped the Bill would set out a clear offence for those
damaging the water environment etc.. Yet the Bill only gives
powers to make regulations to issue various notices on persons.
UNISON should consider if these proposals are clear and strong
- There is no mention in the Bill of an appeals system for those
accused of committing an offence. In the interests of justice
and fairness, UNISON would wish to see a clear system for appeals
- UNISON supports the concept of "Call in", but we
believe that it is important that "third party" is
defined widely to cover all interests - not just developers.
We note the Executive is to consult further on this issue.
- UNISON supports the polluter pays principle, and we welcome
further consultation on the issue of charging.
- UNISON would wish to see the provisions of the Bill enacted
as soon as possible. The proposals to allow business and other
water users not to comply with the rules until 2012 seems extraordinary.
- We feel that it is essential that "abstraction"
is clearly defined. The Bill makes provision for SEPA to draw
up strategies at a sub district scale. UNISON has doubts that
strategies at this level are robust enough, and would prefer
clearer, firmer across the board rules.
- Again on impoundment UNISON would prefer the Bill to establish
clearer, firmer rules, set out by SEPA as regulator.
- UNISON supports the principles of thresholds, but notes that
the issue of thresholds appear to be watered down in the Bill.
UNISON would wish to see clearer and firmer rules on establishing
and monitoring thresholds.
- Whilst this Bill does not establish full competition within
the Scottish water industry, it does allow for private sector
access to water and sewage systems. UNISON is concerned about
the involvement of the private sector, and therefore is keen
to ensure that the standards set out in the Bill are robust
to protect consumers, public health, employees and the environment.
UNISON has concerns that allowing the private sector access
to water and sewage systems will encourage the break up of Scotland's
integrated water industry.
- UNISON welcomes the provisions in the Bill to set out clear
construction standards to ensure the highest quality in water
activity. The Scottish Executive should be required to consult
with Scottish Water on these construction standards, and there
should also be an obligation to consultation with trade unions
working within the Water industry.
- UNISON set out a range of concerns as regards technical standards
and potential for contamination in our initial response to the
Water Services Bill. We are anxious to ensure that the highest
standards of water mains and sewage treatment works are established
and maintained. We would wish to see firm commitments in the
Bill that any person (other than Scottish Water) involved in
water activity should be required to meet these high standards,
and should be closely monitored in all of their water use activity,
with clear and appropriate penalties for failure to meet standards
specified in the Bill.
- The role and powers of the regulator in upholding standards
and monitoring should be set out clearly in the Bill, to ensure
the highest standards are established, maintained and monitored.
UNISON would also wish to see clarifications of the role of
the Water Industry Commissioner and SEPA on this matter.
- The Bill does not specify detail on the basis for charging
for new entrants to the network. UNISON believes that new entrants
must be charged the full economic cost of access to each part
of the network, and in addition for performance bonds to underpin
a system of penalty and compensation payments.
- In our original response, UNISON called for safeguards to
protect water arrangements for disadvantaged consumers. There
is no mention of any safeguards in the Bill, and UNISON would
look for guarantees on water provision standards, as well as
the standards for water activity.