By Andy Hargreaves

desalination plant sign

The Government says it will look at whether the private sector can take responsibility for Scilly’s water services after the Council indicated to them that the local authority couldn’t run these effectively.

The recommendation comes in the first report issued by Defra following their consultation last winter.

In 2014, the government announced that it wanted to bring the islands into line with existing UK and European laws on water supply and management.

The Drinking Water Inspectorate and the Environment Agency have no enforcement powers here, which means residents and visitors don’t enjoy the same level of public health and environmental protection available elsewhere in the country.

Defra officials visited all five islands in January and received 45 responses including 14 businesses and 25 individuals.

Those were on top of feedback from the Council, Duchy and Tresco Estate.

Defra asked whether people had any problems with their supply. While the majority reported no issues, three people said the colour or taste of the water was a worry while four responders reported issues with high nitrate levels.

The costs of any upgrades to Scilly’s infrastructure, and who would pay for it, were a concern, and several islanders felt that there needed to be more emphasis on conserving water.

Some businesses wanted more support from Defra to make necessary changes, similar to that offered to the Council and Duchy.

Defra says respondents were generally positive about the Environment Agency having a greater regulatory role on the islands, because the water would become safer and it would show that we comply with international law.

The Department says they will now delay making any changes to the legislation until a long-term solution to delivering our water supply has been agreed.

But they say a key part of that process will be exploring an alternative supplier to the Council who manage the service on St Mary’s and Bryher.

Defra says the Council indicated to them that they’ll find it difficult operating water and sewerage systems effectively in the future.

So they will now look at the private sector, “to provide some solutions.”