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Scottish Water Sustainable Growth Agreement

Sustainable Growth Agreement Delivers for Scotland's Environment

SEPA and Scottish Water have been working together to improve the way decisions are taken to protect and enhance Scotland's environment, recover value from sewage, and prevent flooding using techniques that make our towns and cities better places to live.

This work has unlocked innovation in three key areas:

  • Making sustainable choices about how to invest in protecting the quality of Scotland's water environment that minimise energy and resource use and maximise social and economic benefit now and in the future.
  • Managing rainwater and wastewater drainage to help protect the social, economic, and environmental wellbeing of Scotland's towns and cities in a changing climate.
  • Helping generate wealth not waste by maximising the recovery of resources from Scotland's sewage and cycling them back into a circular economy.

What has been achieved?

Image of world highlighting one planet choices principles (future focused, encourages innovation and systems approach)
Making more sustainable choices

We developed a framework called One Planet Choices that helps identify solutions to problems that will still work as things change in the future. The framework is flexible and can be applied in a light touch way, or with more rigour in complex systems which involve multiple stakeholders. 

The framework was trialled on several different systems, ranging from individual sites to river catchments and national strategies. The trials included the following:

  • Eden Catchment: Working with land managers, wastewater treatment managers, and regulators to find the most sustainable way to tackle phosphorus and water resources impacts in the catchment.
  • Aberdeen City Blueprint: Developing an approach to joint decision-making with a local authority to manage rainwater more effectively and in ways that bring wider benefits beyond reduced flooding.
  • One Health Breakthrough Partnership: Developing a strategy in conjunction with NHS Highland, Scottish Water, SEPA and others to find the most sustainable way to reduce the risks and impacts on the environment from pharmaceuticals.
  • Philipshill Wastewater Treatment Works: Identifying the actions that would lead to the largest overall benefit to the local community served by Philipshill WWTW whilst achieving Water Framework Directive objectives for the receiving waterbodies.

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Learn more about One Planet Choices from this short five-minute video.


You can also read our full One Planet Choices method.

Managing Rainwater and Wastewater Drainage

We improved the data used to make decisions about managing storm water and developed an approach for engaging with Local Authorities to promote the use of blue green infrastructure to manage rainwater in cities.

We used this approach with Aberdeen City Council to jointly plan better ways to manage rainwater in Aberdeen that use more natural and sustainable techniques to reduce flooding.

Generating Wealth not Waste

We looked systematically at recovering value from wastewater. The biggest opportunities for this were in:

  • Co-digestion of sewage sludge with other materials to generate energy.
  • Recovery of grit from wastewater to re-use as aggregate.

Trials have been completed that demonstrated resources could be recovered from wastewater and cycled back into the economy.

Thanks to our partnership with Chivas Brothers, Nigg's Wastewater Treatment Works now produces green energy by co-digesting sewage sludge with distillery residue.

What are the next steps?

Alongside Scottish Water, we are now building on the successes of the SGA with our partners. Some examples of how the SGA will make a difference to our work in the future include:

  • Using a One Planet Choices approach to deliver more sustainable decision-making in complex systems. For example; in complex catchments with multiple stakeholders, in decisions about investment in our infrastructure, in disproportionate cost assessments and to inform new guidance and approaches (such as the flood risk management guidance by SEPA and Scottish Government).
  • The management of rainwater in Aberdeen will be informed by the outputs from the City Blueprint trial, which made use of our One Planet Choices method.
  • We also plan to use the approach developed under the SGA in other parts of Scotland to improve the management of rainwater to reduce flooding and make better places to live.
  • We will continue to work with Scottish Water to recover value from wastewater by recovering material from sewage, such as grit, and by identifying more opportunities for producing green energy via co-digestion of sewage sludge with other material.