Douglas Millican, chief executive, Scottish Water Policy & regulation, Water, Opinion, Scottish Water

“Without careful management of our most precious natural resource, and working with customers, our role in a flourishing Scotland would be diminished.”

Waterways such as the River Kelvin in ­Glasgow form a vital part of the natural and built environment we manage to provide water and wastewater services across Scotland. It is a river running through the heart of Scotland’s biggest city, surrounded by urban communities who treasure it, and a habitat for the wildlife that lives there.

As we launch a £15 million upgrade of outfall sites along the river, it’s critical we get it right; not just from an infrastructure and environmental perspective, but also that we bring the communities who live alongside it with us – listening to them and incorporating their views into our plans.

Our project, which is being carried out by one of our key alliance partners, Amey Black & Veatch, aims to modernise the sewer network that connects to the River Kelvin. By improving our assets along this iconic tributary of the River Clyde, we will deliver a ­better and more effective service for a city that is ­continually growing, changing and thriving.

This new infrastructure will help prevent items that are wrongly flushed down the toilet – items such as rags, baby wipes and plastic cotton buds – from overflowing into the River Kelvin during severe storm events.

In large part, the city of Glasgow is still served by infrastructure that was installed by Victorian pioneers seeking to introduce clean water and sanitation to improve the health of its citizens more than 150 years ago. Indeed, the Loch Katrine raw water aqueduct is also about to undergo significant maintenance to ensure it continues to serve our customers as effectively as it has since the 1850s.

For more than a century, those of us charged with responsibility for Scotland’s water have been focused on helping the country to flourish. So while talk of “social contracts” with customers might feel like it’s a new buzz-phrase in our industry lexicon, it’s something we’ve been conscious of throughout generations of public ownership of the country’s water services.

Without careful management of our most vital and precious natural resource, smart investment and maintenance, and working hand-in-hand with customers and communities, our role in a flourishing Scotland would be diminished.

Last summer, Scottish Water went on the road to engage our customers on what matters to them – we talked and we listened. With decisions being made every day that impact our customers, it was critical we heard the views of the people we serve. More than 16,000 people responded to our “Shaping the Future” roadshows – looking at our strategic ambitions for the decades ahead.

Our customers told us they value a resilient and reliable water and wastewater service; and they told us about the connection they feel to Scotland’s water, including its quality and taste. Above all they told us they recognised and understood the role we play in supporting communities to flourish – while encouraging us to do even more.

Having listened to our customers, we have created a new strategic ambition “to support a flourishing Scotland”, and are now focusing on how we fulfil that commitment as we co-create our plans for the next ­regulatory period and beyond.

We’re considering the part we play beyond our core services, right across the full spectrum of our ­activities. So as we invest more than £600 million annually, our investment choices must clearly take full account of the views of our customers and communities. Projects such as the River Kelvin, the landmark Shieldhall Tunnel in Glasgow, or Haymarket sewer replacement in the centre of Edinburgh, bring benefits such as reduced flooding or risk of pollution. But flourishing economically is as important as ensuring the country flourishes environmentally – supporting growth and development from our largest cities to the smallest island communities too.

Scottish Water exists solely for the benefit of our customers and communities. While we undertake activities that already support a flourishing Scotland, I am excited about the new possibilities to do even more – possibilities like our “Your Water Your Life” campaign that we launched last summer to make it easier for people to top up from the tap. Possibilities that will emerge as we co-create, with our customers and stakeholders, our strategic plan for the next period and beyond.