Scotland: The Hydro Nation

By Barry Greig 17 January, 2017

Greig from the Scottish Govt on the country's journey to becoming a 'Hydro Nation' & what more is still to come

The 'Hydro Nation' vision started in 2012 is underpinned by a statutory duty placed on Scottish Ministers
The programme effectively draws together & develops the many different threads that make up its water sector
Scotland was one of the first countries to commit to SDGs; future plans include expanding outside of Scotland

Scotland covers an area of 78,000 sq. km including 787 islands, which makes it twice the size of the Netherlands and has a population of just 5.2 million.

Scotland is served by Scottish Water
It is a public co’ but is accountable to Scottish Ministers & through them to Parliament

The country is served by Scottish Water – a public corporation accountable to Scottish Ministers, and through them, to the Scottish Parliament. With more than 60,000 miles of pipes and 2,000 treatment works, Scottish Water supports communities the length and breadth of Scotland. Scottish Water provides clean safe drinking water to 2.49 million households and 152,000 business premises across Scotland. Every day it supplies 1.37 billion litres of treated drinking water and removes nearly one billion litres of wastewater from customers’ properties and treats it carefully before returning it safely to the environment.

The road to becoming a ‘Hydro Nation’

Scotland’s journey to becoming a ‘Hydro Nation’ began with the publication of the Hydro Nation Prospectus document by The Scottish Government in 2012, which described its vision of Scotland as a country that “…recognise(s) water as part of our national & international identity. We understand the sustainable management of our water resource is crucial to our future success and a key component of the flourishing low-carbon economy and the basis of growing international trade opportunities.

The ‘Hydro Nation’ vision is underpinned by a statutory duty placed on Scottish Ministers

This vision is underpinned by a statutory duty placed on the Scottish Ministers in the Water Resources (Scotland) Act 2013 to “take such reasonable steps as they consider appropriate for the purpose of ensuring the development of the value of Scotland’s water resources.

The Hydro Nation vision is one of maximising the economic and non-economic value of Scotland’s water resources by more effectively drawing together and developing the many different threads that make up Scotland’s water sector: from Scottish Water, one of the most successful water utility companies in the UK, through an impressive, innovative and diverse supply chain, to the academic and research specialists that support the industry and help develop policy as well as deliver practical solutions to water problems.
In simple terms, the ambition is for Scotland to be a world leader in the responsible management of water resources.
Tangible examples of progress with this approach include the developing success of Scottish Water International, a commercial arm of the publicly-owned utility offering international consultancy. Founded in 2013, the company has already won high profile contracts in Australia, Canada, Qatar, Ireland and Poland.

Innovation, education & research are all well-supported

Domestically, one of the main early achievements of the Scottish Hydro Nation programme so far, has been the establishment of the Hydro Nation Water Innovation Service, a bespoke service for the water industry which provides advice, introductions and support to innovators wanting to bring innovative new products and services to market. This service was supported by the opening in November 2015 of two full-scale testing facilities at operational Scottish Water sites – Gorthleck in the Highlands for water treatment and Bo’Ness near Falkirk for wastewater – funded by a GBP1.6M Scottish Government grant.

The programme has launched several key initiatives including the Hydro Nation Innovation Service & CREW

Scottish Water Facility

While the service doesn’t provide funding for SMEs, it plays a vital role in advising them of sources of funds that are available and in helping them access these. In this sense the service goes beyond mere “signposting” as it provides a good degree of facilitation and business development through networking.
Hydro Nation also supports the development of the academic centre, where a key initiative has been the establishment of CREW – Scotland’s Centre of Expertise for Waters – which is a hub where calls for research are co-ordinated across academic institutions, government and the water sector in Scotland. The industry can use it to find academic research and researchers, while government can use a call-off facility to deliver research that helps inform and shape policy. CREW is another example of how the water sector in Scotland is bound together in a tighter community than is found elsewhere.
CREW also manages the Hydro Nation Scholars Programme – a challenging post-graduate programme designed to deliver the water leaders of the future, as well as Scholars being ambassadors for the Hydro Nation by displaying excellence in their own fields and going on to work internationally to shine a light on what Scotland’s doing and our approach more generally.

The sense of a community & shared purpose also extends to the sector’s regulators

This sense of a community and shared purpose also extends to the sector’s regulators; the economic, environmental and drinking water regulators for Scotland all work closely and inter-connectedly with government and Scottish Water to drive improved performance and promote the sector’s interests. Scotland’s regulators, including the Water Industry Commission for Scotland (WICS) have themselves carried out international consultancy work sharing best practice on water regulation; their experience of Scotland’s open market for business retail and the implementation of the Water Framework Directive, to give but two examples.

Hydro Nation agenda not limited to Scotland

The Hydro Nation agenda is also an international agenda. Scotland recognises that, as a responsible nation in the world, it has a duty to contribute to solving global issues where it can bring its expertise to bear most effectively. Scotland is extremely fortunate to enjoy abundant water resources which contribute to the quality and distinctiveness of our environment. We enjoy excellent access to clean, fresh drinking water and high standards of sanitation, but many millions around the world do not.
Following the UN Sustainable Development Summit in September 2015, the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, announced Scotland as one of the first countries in the world to publicly commit to the new Sustainable Development Goals. The global context is that water scarcity affects more than 40 percent of the world’s population, an alarming figure and one projected to increase with the rise of global temperatures as a consequence of climate change. Although much progress has been made, many still do not have safe water or adequate sanitation. This is a major problem impacting every continent, and it is a problem for us all.

Scotland’s knowledge of economic & non-economic regulation and governance is increasingly being acknowledged as best practice

Scotland has long been an outward-looking nation, and our aim is to demonstrate Scotland’s commitment to the global water agenda by highlighting Scotland’s water research excellence and activity around the world. Scottish expertise is helping lead the way or contribute to better resource management, whether in relation to water scarcity,  access to adequate safe and affordable drinking water and  sanitation, or developing thinking on thorny legal trans-boundary issues. We also have knowledge in the fields of economic and non-economic regulation and governance where Scottish expertise is increasingly acknowledged as an exemplar of best practice.
The prize for Scotland in taking Hydro Nation onto the international stage should not be seen solely in terms of benefit to the Scottish economy, important though that is. Rather, we believe we can make a meaningful contribution towards solving global water issues, and that it is the right thing to do.

Further Reading

  • Water Stewardship: The Impact To Date – A new report finds there has been little evolution from business -as-usual in regards to water management. What behaviours need to change? How can this be achieved? We sat down with report authors James Dalton from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) & Peter Newborne from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI)
  • Integrating Climate & Water Diplomacy For Rivers – Climate change will likely intensify water-related challenges in river basins. Meanwhile, the Mekong River Commission is experiencing funding cuts. adelphi’s Sabine Blumstein shares 3 reasons for stronger integration of climate policy & water instruments
  • Innovating Water Stewardship Through Business Ecosystems – William Sarni, water stewardship expert, on the need for innovation in water strategies in order to better position for 21st Century water risks. Sarni points to “business ecosystems” as the driver for this innovation and value creation
  • Thirsty Business: Why Water Is Vital To Climate Action – Water is key to the shift to a low-carbon world. Yet, companies aren’t moving fast enough as CDP’s latest Global Water Report 2016 shows. Their Morgon Gillespy on key findings from the report and the need for still more action
  • Securing Water For Hong Kong’s Future – The Jockey Club Water Initiative on Sustainability & Engagement (JC-WISE) aims to secure long-term water sustainability for Hong Kong. CWR sat down with Dr Frederick Lee of the University of Hong Kong
  • Managing the World’s Liquid Asset – Water – Even if all pledges made at COP21 are carried out, global staple crops face increased failures and 1.5 billion more people are to face water stress by 2050. Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Mark Dwortzan shares more findings & solutions from their report
  • Map to HK & Guangdong Water Governance – Amongst rising concerns over the supply of Hong Kong’s principal water source, the Dong River, Kris Hartley proposes a new collaboration framework for HK-Guangdong water governance
  • Keeping Peace: China’s Upstream Dilema – Despite voting against the UN Water Convention, China  does embrace its central principles. Prof Wouters shares her expert views on the region’s water treaties & keeping the peace on transboundary waters
  • Water: Tale of Two Cities – Su Liu of the Civic Exchange discusses the different strategies adopted by Hong Kong & Singapore towards solving their water scarcity and how Hong Kong’s approach still leaves the territory vulnerable in the long term
  • 2016 World Water Week: Key Takeaways – Business, risk assessment & linkages with SDG 6 were key issues at World Water Week 2016, fitting given the theme “Water for Sustainable Growth”. China Water Risk’s Dawn McGregor on our three key takeaways from Stockholm
  • Developing A Global Water Stewardship System – Alliance for Water Stewardship’s Zhenzhen Xu, Ma Xi & Michael Spencer introduce the first ever global water stewardship standard and share lessons learnt from Ecolab’s pilot at their Taicang China chemical plant
Barry Greig
Author: Barry Greig
Barry Greig is the Scottish Government Directorate for Environment and Forestry: Water Industry Division. Barry joined the Scottish Government after working as a lawyer and commercial arbitrator in the City of London and has since worked in a variety of policy roles including helping establish the Food Standards Agency, and drafting Scotland’s first Sustainable Development Strategy. He joined the Water Industry Team in January 2014 to project manage the delivery of the XVth International Water Resources Association World Water Congress, held in Edinburgh in May 2015, and to lead work on ‘Scotland the Hydro Nation’, an innovative policy which seeks to ensure Scotland manages its water environment to the best advantage, employing its knowledge and expertise effectively at home and internationally.
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