BLOG: Balancing Climate Change, Investment and Water Charges - Alex Plant CEO

02 February 2024
Alex Plant on stage at ACM in Edinburgh 2023

Balancing Act

Climate impact is affecting every aspect of our services

“The climate we rely on for the water needs of our nation is affecting every aspect of our services, and we must do more to maintain and replace our ageing assets.”

Alex Plant
CEO, Scottish Water
The amount customers pay to keep Scotland’s water cycle flowing is increasing. 

It’s going up because the climate we rely on for the water needs of our nation is affecting every aspect of our services, and we must do more to maintain and replace our ageing assets. 

This isn’t a radical claim.  

Assets like water treatment works, waste processing sites, and sewers – often built a century or more ago - simply cannot cope with what is happening to our weather.  

Yet we must keep the taps running! Now, and for generations to come. 

We are publicly owned. So, the charge increase - less than 70 pence a week on average – all goes towards ensuring we continue to deliver the current excellent levels of customer satisfaction, safeguard against the worst impacts of ever more extreme weather today and create the right conditions for a resilient future. 

Demands are intensifying, as we try to produce and distribute more than one billion litres of water a day and clean and safely return a similar amount to the environment – all in an increasingly unstable climate.   

When climactic changes bring about extreme floods and droughts, often within the space of a few months our communities and customers find themselves in the eye of the storm. 

Yet people in Scotland want a high-quality water supply, often hailed as one of the best in the world. They don’t want to fall victim to repeated severe flooding. They want a waste water system they have confidence in doing the things most of us don’t give a second thought to after the toilet is flushed or the sink has drained. 

And so, ensuring we can stay ahead of the challenges of a changing climate was the key factor driving our Board’s decision to maintain investment, supported by increases to the prices household customers and businesses pay for reliable water and waste water services. 

The Board opted in recent years to keep increases below the level allowed in our regulatory settlement, recognising the unprecedented circumstances of the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis. This reduced our investment by £500 million. 

To now “kick the can down the road” on investing for resilience in the face of climate change, would be to consign future generations to lower levels of service and big bill increases to recover lost ground. That just wouldn’t be fair,  

The Board was also mindful that there is now more support available for those eligible for help in paying their bills through a variety of reductions and discounts. Today, almost 50% of all households in Scotland qualify for help with their water bill. 

Our long-term investment trajectory aims to ensure we can deliver for customers, communities, and the environment for decades to come.  Increasing prices by a modest amount this year helps to build resilience and strikes the right balance between what customers pay today, and what future generations will need to contribute.