Scotland’s water infrastructure under the spotlight

Ideas around how Scotland can make sure people and industry can continue to access clean water, as supplies come under increasing pressure from climate change, will be one of the key topics at a major water sector event in Edinburgh next Friday (March 22).

The one-day World Water Day hybrid event in Edinburgh will see Scotland’s water sector leaders gather to discuss the urgent need to adapt to the impacts of the climate emergency and protect the country’s water infrastructure, including making sure water is where it’s needed, from people’s homes to future hydrogen plants.

The event, organised by Scotland’s Hydro Nation International Centre, based at The James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen, and supported by the Scottish Government, will tackle challenges from skills gaps for a greener water sector to how our freshwaters are adapting to climate change.

Key speakers include the Scottish Government’s Deputy Director of Water Policy & Directorate of Energy and Climate Change Operations Jon Rathjen, who will outline responses to a consultation around developing policy for the future of the water industry in Scotland in response to the climate emergency.

The event’s theme is “Leveraging Water for a Just Transition”. Rachel Helliwell, Director of HNIC and Scotland’s Centre of Expertise for Waters (CREW), based at the Hutton, says, “Scotland has a reputation for promoting innovative ideas generated by world leading academics into policy and practice. We have enviable water resources and water quality. But there are always emerging threats that require research to be delivered at pace to inform government policy, such as contaminants like PFAS, known as forever chemicals, and microplastics, and increasingly also climate change.

“Scotland has a reputation for promoting innovative ideas generated by world leading academics into policy and practice. We have enviable water resources and water quality”

Rachel Helliwell, Director of HNIC
Rachel Helliwell, Director of HNIC

“We have seen rising temperatures over the past few decades, as well as drier summers and more extreme rainfall events. These all contribute to increasing pressure on our water supplies, water quality and our wastewater and drainage infrastructure.

“What we have is an opportunity to make sure we are resilient to these issues, we adapt, that no one is left behind and that we can share the answers we develop internationally, to help others, and that’s the key message behind World Water Day this year.”

Other key speakers at the event, being held at Dynamic Earth and online on Friday, March 22, include Patrick Campbell, Director of Water at engineering firm Ramboll, who will talk about water requirements for future hydrogen energy production in Scotland, the availability of different water resources and the potential opportunities and challenges for this alternative energy source in Scotland.

He will be joined by John Rowan, Director of the UNESCO Centre of Water Law, Policy & Science in Dundee, on Scotland’s international role in waters, and Linda May, a freshwater ecologist at the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology on adaptive responses to climate-driven water quality issues.  

There will also be breakout sessions on what is needed to transition to a net zero economy and whether Scotland has the green skills needed for a just transition, and consideration of nature-based solutions and ideas around sustainable urban drainage systems for water resource management.

Professor Andrew Tyler, Hydro Nation Chair, based at the University of Stirling, will give updates on how Scottish research and innovation are driving the race to net zero, and Hydro Nation Scholar, at Glasgow Caledonian University, Julius Caesar Alejandre, will give a spotlight talk on blue-green prescribing, which aims to reduce the environmental impact of medical prescriptions. Closing remarks will be made by Scottish Water CEO Alex Plant.

The hybrid event includes an exhibition, lunch, networking and a post-event reception for in-person delegates, and an online pavilion and networking for remote attendees.

For more information, visit: World Water Day 2024

To see the full programme, visit: Programme

Elaine Maslin, Media Officer, The James Hutton Institute, tel: +44 (0)1224 395076 or +44 (0)7977 805808