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Private water supplies: Are they inhibiting growth and flexibility of the rural economy, or impacting population distribution?

Rural community on Isle of Skye

Private water supplies (PWS) are those supplies that are not provided by Scottish Water, and instead are the responsibility of their owners and users. A key policy priority for Scottish Government is how to make these supplies sustainable and of good quality and quantity.

Private supplies are subject to variable quality. In some cases being of particularly high water quality, but in others failing to meet drinking water standards due largely to poor quality supply, poor or inadequate treatment or substandard construction and maintenance. Quantity can also be problematic, with some supplies reducing in flow or drying up completely particularly during the summer months.

Previous CREW research aimed to identify how to better engage with communities around their PWS and in doing so highlighted a number of research gaps. These centred on the operational costs of a private supply for the PWS owner and its impact on the wider local economy. This research investigates these topics in further detail.

Project Objectives

The overall objective is to investigate the potential and actual impacts of PWS on individuals, PWS owners, communities, individual businesses (particularly around tourism, agriculture and small business start-ups), the rural economy, and consequently population distribution.

  1. Identify the costs of managing a PWS on households and businesses
    1. Review existing published information on PWS operational and maintenance costs.
    2. Develop and implement a research methodology for engaging with the case study communities.
    3. Identify options for estimating the cost (and its variability) to individuals and communities.
  2. Determine the impact of PWS on the wider local economy. How dependant is the rural economy on PWS? Is economic growth inhibited by PWS? Do PWS influence population distribution e.g. a shift to urban areas?
  1. Briefly review existing published information on how reliance on PWS may impact rural economies.
  2. Engage with rural communities and businesses to determine levels of concern around water quality and quantity restricting the growth of the local rural economy.
  3. Using qualitative data, determine the short and potential long-term impacts of PWS on the local economy, based on participants’ perceptions.
  4. Asses the role PWS have had on change in population/community structure and how might this change in the future.