Environment and rural development minister Ross Finnie said the results from the twelfth annual report into Drinking Water Quality in Scotland gave new unitary water authority Scottish Water a 'solid foundation' to continue the drive to increase standards.
'These results show that the£462m investment programme undertaken by the three Scottish water authorities on water mains renewal and treatment works during 2001/02 is paying dividends.
'The creation of Scottish Water demonstrated the Scottish Executive's commitment to preserving public health by maintaining and improving the standards of drinking water in Scotland. The£1.8bn investment programme which the authority is outlining over the next four years will continue the strive to improve standards.
'I am committed to ensuring that Scottish Water maintains the momentum of such improvements in drinking water quality.'
The report showed that 99.3% of drinking water samples passed strict quality criteria in 2001 compared with 99% in 2000.
Mr Finnie said the appointment of drinking water quality regulator Tim Hooton would ensure that the regulation of the water industry in Scotland was done in a diligent and professional manner, but highlighted that improvements were still necessary.
Despite the continued trend in improving drinking water, the report cited that there were still areas where further improvements are needed, in particular the problem of trihalomethanes (THMs) which are by-products from the disinfection process.
The 2001 Water Quality Report can be found at: www.scotland.gov.uk/publications
The drinking water quality results published by the three Scottish water authorities for 2001 show that there were fewer water quality failures in 2001 than in 2000. Over 148,600 tests were carried out on samples of water taken from customers' taps during 2001 and 1,147 of the tests failed to meet the relevant standard. This compares with 1,539 failures at customers' taps during 2000 from over 151,000 tests.
Key microbiological parameters are (Total) coliforms and Eschericha coli (E. coli). If coliform organisms are detected, but no E.coli, the probability is that pollution is via soil or vegetable contamination or possibly a warning that more serious pollution could follow especially after heavy rain. The detection of E.coli in drinking water supplies provides clear evidence of faecal pollution. The results for the key microbiological parameters show that there were fewer failures of the strict microbiological standards in 2001 compared with 2000. The 152 failures of the coliform standard at customers' taps in 2001 compares with 207 in 2000. The number of faecal coliform failures fell from 45 in 2000 to 32 in 2001. The number of coliform tests not meeting the standards at customers' taps in 2001 was less than 9.3% of that recorded in1991, which was the first full year of the Regulation's operation. Significant improvements have therefore been made since the introduction of the Regulations, although further work is clearly required.
The principal reason for poor THM compliance is that the improvements in the microbiological quality of water supplies have, at the same time, resulted in an increase in the failure rate for trihalomethanes (THM). Trihalomethanes occur in drinking water as a result of the reaction between chlorine and naturally occurring organic materials. The World Health Organisation has stated that in controlling trihalomethanes, primary consideration should be given to ensuring that disinfection is never compromised. The use of chlorine is a short-term solution and as the investment programme advances the introduction of better water treatment technology the reliance on the use of chlorine will be reduced.
Water authority recognition that measures must be taken to improve disinfection practices is reflected in the large number of legally binding undertakings to carry out improvements to address the THM problem and is embodied in the authorities' ongoing investment programmes.
Scottish Water, the new unitary water authority for Scotland took over from East of Scotland Water (ESW), North of Scotland Water (NoSWA) and West of Scotland Water (WoSWA). The authority assumed its powers on 1 April as a result of the Water Industry (Scotland) Act. That Act also established the drinking water quality regulator for Scotland, who is responsible for regulating the quality of public drinking water supplies independently of ministers.
Copies of Drinking Water Quality in Scotland 2001 are available from the Stationery Office Bookshop, 71 Lothian Road, Edinburgh EH3 9AZ. Telephone 0870 606 5566.