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Publication - Minutes

Hydro Nation Forum minutes: January 2018

Published: 12 Feb 2018
Date of meeting: 17 Jan 2018

Minutes from the meeting of the Hydro Nation Forum in January 2018.

Attendees and apologies

In Attendance

  • Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (Chair)
  • Barry Greig (BG), Scottish Government (Vice Chair)
  • Craig McGill (CM), Scottish Government
  • Professor George Fleming (GF), EnviroCentre
  • Gail Walker (GW), Citizens Advice Scotland
  • Audrey MacIver (AM), Highlands and Islands Enterprise
  • Prof. Robert Kalin (RK), Strathclyde University
  • Alan Sutherland (AS), Water Industry Commission Scotland
  • Professor Christopher Spray (CS), University of Dundee
  • Adrian Sym (ASym), Alliance for Water Stewardship
  • Rachel Helliwell (RH), James Hutton Institute
  • Seonaid Vass (SV), Scottish Enterprise
  • Tom Harvie-Clark (THC), Scottish Water
  • Allan Reid (AR), SEPA
  • Maricela Blair (MB), Hydro Nation Scholar
  • Richard Millar (RM), Scottish Canals
  • Armando Borge (AB), Strathclyde University


  • Professor Bob Ferrier, James Hutton Institute
  • Chrysoula Pantsi, Edinburgh Napier University
  • Dr Alan MacDonald, British Geological Survey
  • Terry A’Hearn, SEPA
  • Steve Dunlop, Scottish Canals
  • May East, UNITAR Fellow
  • Professor Campbell Gemmell, University of Glasgow
  • Galen Fulford, Biomatrix Water Technology
  • Dr Michael Gormley, Heriot Watt University
  • Professor Simon Parsons, Scottish Water
  • Dr David Johnstone, University of Oxford
  • Alan Simpson, Institute of Civil Engineers
  • Nick Lyth, Green Angel Syndicate
  • Jan Reid, Scottish Enterprise
  • Jim Panton, Panton McLeod Ltd. and Chair Of institute of Water (Scotland)
  • Dr Howard Dryden, Dryden Aqua

Items and actions

1. Meeting commenced with an introduction and welcome from Duar Fleming, Managing Director of EnviroCentre, who provided a brief introduction into the work that EnviroCentre are currently undertaking.

2. Cabinet Secretary welcomed those in attendance. She put on record her thanks to Dr Howard Dryden, who was stepping down from the Forum, for bringing his expertise to the Forum these last few years and to wish him the very best for the future. She welcomed Adrian Sym as a new member and Maricela Blair representing the Hydro Nation Scholars. Cabinet Secretary confirmed that the minutes of the previous meeting had been agreed and published on the Scottish Government website.

3. Cabinet Secretary briefly noted the Hydro Nation parliamentary debate that took place in October 2017, in particular the consensual nature of the debate which indicated a great level of cross-party support for the Hydro Nation agenda, and the praise directed at the wider industry and stakeholders, including the Forum, for their efforts.

4. Cabinet Secretary noted the debate showed that good progress had been made in communicating what Hydro Nation is about and assurance that the approach we are taking – with the Forum’s advice, support and input – is the right one. She encouraged the Forum to continue to challenge and apply critical thinking to develop the agenda to deliver an improved water sector that makes an increasing contribution to the Scottish economy, and which plays its part in responding to key global water challenges.

5. Cabinet Secretary introduced Gail Walker who provided a summary of research findings from deliberative work recently completed by Citizens Advice Scotland on two key policy issues for the water industry. Details are provided in paper HNF 11.1.

6. Cabinet Secretary noted the paper’s highly topical relevance to the Forum, and to her wider portfolio, with reference to marine pollution, particularly given her recent announcement on plans to introduce legislation to ban the manufacture and sale of plastic stemmed cotton buds, noting that behavioural changes are particularly difficult to tackle, agreeing with THC that cognitive dissonance is an important factor.

7. GW noted that the research showed people were passionate about the environment and were surprised by the impacts of their own behaviour. It also found out that education was key- when showed the damage caused by their own behaviour, consumers were more likely to change the way they act – and suggested that hard measures (such as legislation) may be required in addition to any softer measures. In discussion, BK suggested interest in a potential BBC Scotland documentary may open a channel of communication to help tackle these issues as a way of getting people to change their behaviour.

8. GF noted that particularly good progress had been made in the area of waste disposal and reducing the number of landfill sites– and suggested that a media strategy was essential to underpin behaviour changes and keep these issues at the forefront of people’s minds.

9. Cabinet Secretary cautioned that, while Blue Planet had provided a window for change, there was a need to act quickly before people move on to other issues. She suggested that Scottish Water could help here especially around communications on best practice on water use/waste disposal. THC agreed.

10. AR agreed there is a current window of opportunity to act and that there was a current groundswell of support not just from consumers, but from suppliers too. Examples include campaigns on use of coffee cups and plastic straws e.g. a recent announcement by Iceland that they were phasing out single use plastic packaging.

11. GW noted that CAS would be undertaking work with WICS in 2019 on behavioural insights.

12. RM raised the issue of the response to freshwater pollution as a good example of successful behavioural change. He pointed to the nearby Forth & Clyde canal which had been written off owing to waste being dumped in it. Just 15 years later following regeneration the water quality is much improved with over 22 million visitors annually.

13. In summarising the discussion, Cabinet Secretary thanked everyone for their contributions and noted that legislation banning of plastic would need to be considered on a case-by-case basis – consideration was needed around alternative options and she asked that the Forum bring forward any ideas they may have.

ACTION POINT 1 – Members to bring forward suggestions for immediate actions to address single-use plastic pollution.

14. Cabinet Secretary noted that Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, had recently delivered a special address at the India Water Impact Summit to experts from India and around the globe, including colleagues from Scotland and the rest of the UK, who had gathered to discuss and consider some of the key water challenges facing India. She noted that the immense challenges faced by India and cited the Scottish Government’s approach as being about shared values with our Indian partners, knowledge exchange and a focus on improving lives by making a contribution to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The Cabinet Secretary noted recent research by Dr Christian Schmidt that the 10 top-ranked polluting rivers transport 88–95% of the global load into the sea. Therefore, by helping India we are also helping the wider global environment. Cabinet Secretary noted that Scotland and India are already working successfully together in a number of areas, such as the Ganga River Health research project, funded by The Scottish Government and led by the UNESCO Centre for Water Law Policy and Science at the University of Dundee, working closely with Indian colleagues.

15. BG provided further brief background on Hydro Nation work in India. He noted that work to establish pilot technical projects in India is continuing and that at the India Water Impact Summit in Delhi (Dec 2017) collaboration agreements were signed between CGanga and SEPA and separately between CGanga and the James Hutton Institute. BG noted the huge potential social and economic benefit of such collaborative work and invited AR to provide some detail on work that SEPA are undertaking.

16. AR noted that SEPA were taking a holistic approach using a systematic River Basin Management approach to ensure that the correct actions are being taken on both policy and enforcement. He noted that SEPA were keen to pass on learning based on the exemplary actions that are currently undertaken in Scotland, and that further discussion would take place with Indian colleagues the following week.

17. A.Sym noted that AWS have a strong footprint in India through the International Water Security Network which included companies and NGOs. 6/7 members are currently working to apply those standards in India. The key aim is to take dynamic and practical actions with work currently underway. CS noted that WWF support had been invaluable in relation to the Ganga River Health Project and stressed that solutions with community engagement were key.

18. RH noted good progress was being made in the Scottish Government-funded, JHI-led project to build a waste water treatment facility at a primary school in Berambadi, India, noting the strong community/school engagement as a good example of a small-scale, low-cost solution and that it was particularly encouraging to see the resulting community empowerment amongst the women.

19. GF welcomed the example and the key contribution Scotland could make more generally through knowledge transfer. He suggested that an examination of key learning from successful action to tackle waste in Scotland may be relevant to the issue of reducing plastic pollution.

20. BG brought discussion round to the new iteration of the HN strategy document (paper HNF 11.3) noting that only minor amendments had been made to reflect the formal establishment of the Hydro Nation Commercial & Advisory Group and in respect of the new collaboration agreements mentioned earlier. The amendments were agreed.

21. THC mentioned that in February SW would be issuing new strategic projections and proposed the strategy should be updated to reflect priorities (1) Climate Change and Surface Water Management and (2) Maximising value (waste water).

ACTION POINT 2 – THC to share sw strategic projection document with the forum.

22. Cabinet Secretary thanked everyone for attending and passed chairing duties in her absence to BG.

23. The meeting continued and BG invited BK to update members on the Malawi Project.

24. BK noted that the Malawi Project was now well established, having run for 10 years. There had been a change in policy/protocols from Ministerial level down – 70% coverage had now been achieved and this is expected to reach 90% by the time of the country’s next general election in 2019. Work is continuing on the creation of an economic and water quality regulator. The key element is asset management through mapping. 25,360 water point surveys had been completed up to October 2017 – of which 10,574 fully functioning afridev (41.8%), 7,430 partially functioning (29.3%) and 7,188 non-functioning (28.3%). BK noted that 30% of new boreholes fail within 5 years and that only 42% of invested infrastructure is working without any functionality issue. The mWater Portal which, is database of water and sanitation data, went live on 1 October 2017 and, as of, 11 January 2018 the total number of additional data points mapped in 90 Days of Field Activity was 15,209 Water Points Visited and 49,609 Sanitation Points Visited.

25. AS noted that data gathering is essential and that Scotland had made considerable progress in this area over the previous decade, so much so that we are now exporting our knowledge in this field to other countries.

26. BG brought the discussion on to closer engagement with SMEs. He noted that this had been a challenge and he was keen to see more networking within the water business sector. He invited GF to express his views/experience on this issue.

27. GF emphasised the difficulty in bringing SMEs together given their competitive relationships and that one way to do this was through the closer involvement of the academic sector. Recent changes facilitating more opportunities for SMEs involvement in collaborative research projects was welcomed, but this was not without limitations due to the relatively low value of such contracts. Many SMEs nevertheless have considerable capacity that could be brought to bear and this should be maximised. SDI has added particular value to SME profile, but GF felt that more could be done in this area to engage with SMEs and promote Scottish capabilities. He suggested that there may be a role for the Forum in this area, perhaps by encouraging closer links with the Hydro Nation Scholars.

28. SV noted the Water Capability Statement had highlighted the capabilities of the Scottish water sector and consideration could be given to further building on this. She highlighted that that SE was keen to continue to work with the sector and further foster SME engagement.

ACTION POINT 3: SG, SE and HIE to arrange meeting to discuss the best approach around enhanced sme engagement.

29. BG provided an update on discussions between SG and SE around the future iteration of the Hydro Nation Water Innovation Service (HNWIS) following the current contract which expires later this year. It has been agreed that the new service will include a Network Integrator function – essentially a sector expert with responsibility for identifying and engaging with innovators – and that the procurement process would start shortly (Paper HNF 11.2). BG agreed to provide further detail to the HN Forum in due course.

30. BG expanded on the earlier update by the Cabinet Secretary about the parliamentary debates on Hydro Nation and Flood Risk at the tail end of 2017 (Paper HNF 11.4).

31. BG invited members to provide an update on their recent activities and updates were provided by a number of those in attendance. The following points were raised:

  • GW updated members on CAS’ Consumer Future Unit draft work plan for 2018-19 and confirmed that it would shortly be issued for consultation.
  • A Sym introduced himself as a new member outlining the work of the Alliance for Water Stewardship. The AWS Annual Conference in November 2016, supported by Scottish Government, had been a success and plans were being considered to take the conference overseas next year. AWS have been working with HIE and Caithness Hospital aiming to be the first in the world to adopt the AWS Global Standard which if achieved was a good opportunity for Scotland and Hydro Nation. Globally, a key area of work on supply chains included working with M&S on water use in asparagus production in Peru.
  • RM noted good progress in the North Glasgow Integrated Water Management Project with all partners (SC/SW/GCC) having reached an agreement. This project will support the regeneration of the north of the city through dynamic management of the canal channel in times of flood, contributing significantly to the Metropolitan Glasgow strategic Drainage partnership, thereby assisting with flood management in the area. That the future World Canals Conference (China 2020) provided a good opportunity to publicise the work delivered through the Hydro Nation agenda.
  • THC reiterated Scottish Water’s plans to release its strategic plan in February. He also noted that Scottish Water’s heat from sewage trial in the Borders had been deemed successful and that it was planned to roll out the technology at sites in Glasgow, Kirkwall and Campbeltown.
  • As well as ongoing work on the Ganges, CS noted that the UNESCO Centre for Water Law, Policy and Science had been engaging closely in the OECD Water Governance Initiative and associated Scottish pilot, and had participated, representing Hydro Nation at the recent Vienna conference. CS had joined the Building with Nature Policy Learning Group for the EU Interreg programme on nature-based solutions for flooding, and contributed a Scottish case study (Eddleston Water) to the United Nations World Water Development Report 2018, Nature-based solutions for water, as well as co-authoring a paper on ‘OECD PRINCIPLES ON WATER GOVERNANCE IN PRACTICE – An assessment of existing frameworks in Europe, Asia-Pacific, Africa and South America’ in a Special Issue of the Journal Water International.

ACTION POINT 4 – CM to share ‘oecd principles on water governance in practice – an assessment of existing frameworks in europe, asia-pacific, africa and south america’ paper with forum members.

32. BG thanked those in attendance for coming along and for their participation. BG then closed the meeting.

ACTION POINT 5 – The next meeting will be held in june 2018. cm to arrange new date with po and inform members.

12 Feb 2018
Hydro Nation Forum minutes: January 2018