Private Water Supplies

Rural Affairs and the Environment – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 7 June 2007.

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Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative 2:15, 7 June 2007

To ask the Scottish Executive whether it has any plans to review the regulations that introduced new tests for private water supplies in Scotland. (S3O-90)

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

The Private Water Supplies (Scotland) Regulations 2006 implement the additional measures necessary to comply with the revised drinking water directive. As Mr Fraser knows, the regulations came into force on 3 July 2006.

The Government has no immediate plans to review the duties and powers of local authorities in relation to the regulations, but measures relating to drinking water safety are monitored carefully to take account of medical, scientific and technological advances.

Safe drinking water is essential to a healthier Scotland. The 2006 regulations will help all of us to achieve that objective through the provision of clean and wholesome drinking water for those who are dependent on private supplies, as I am.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

I thank the minister for his response which, if warm, was not terribly supportive.

The minister will be aware that there is widespread concern in rural Scotland that, under the new regulations, many small businesses are being clobbered with large bills from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency. Does he agree that, in order to avoid unnecessary damage to the fragile economies of our most rural and remote areas, it is time to review both the implementation of the regulations and the grant scheme that was introduced to help to defray costs?

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

I should have declared an interest, as I have a private water supply. Therefore, I am as sensitive as anybody in the chamber to the issue of ensuring that there is no overregulation or overburdensome regulation.

I am grateful for the advance notice of Mr Fraser's supplementary question, which I received via the pages of the Aberdeen Press and Journal yesterday, in which he demanded that the regulations be immediately withdrawn.

The reality of the situation is slightly different from what Mr Fraser has presented. It is, for example, important that the new regulations had the full backing of the Scottish E coli 0157 task force, because there can be a danger to public health from private water supplies in certain circumstances. Mr Fraser may not be aware that research that was commissioned by the Executive confirmed that all of the 33 supplies that were monitored in north-east Scotland throughout 2002 and 2003 suffered from some form of contamination at least once in those years. Health Protection Scotland has estimated that people who are served by private supplies are 10 times more likely to become ill as a result of drinking contaminated water than those who are served by the public supply. I am drinking the bottled stuff at the moment. In those circumstances, a one-off scheme that allows people to improve their water supplies is desirable.

I am always aware of overregulation and regulatory burdens and costs. However, I ask Mr Fraser to consider whether, as the holiday season arrives, it is sensible to pursue a policy that puts holidaymakers at risk. Surely we should pursue a policy that makes them feel safe.