Interview with Jon Rathjen, Water Europe Board Member & Deputy Director Water Policy, Scottish Government


You are a Water Europe board member of college C ‘Utilities’- Could you tell us what drives you personally to have this role at Water Europe? What do you want to achieve?

I work for the Scottish Government and my role focuses on water policy but very much in the context of climate change and the transition to renewable energy. I act on behalf of Scottish Ministers as the owner and financier of Scottish Water, the publicly owned water and waste water service provider for all of Scotland. Scottish Water has developed over recent years into a high performing utility but to keep it there, it’s essential to both share Scotland’s lessons learnt but also to learn from others. Being a board member at Water Europe gives me the platform to raise issues, discuss challenges and seek and offer solutions. Better water governance and adopting cutting edge techniques helps us all to deliver better customer service, protect the environment and adapt to climate change.

Representing the utilities at Water Europe, which ones do you consider the key challenges and the most burning needs of this college and how do you contribute to addressing these in the context of Water Europe?

For utilities, the big challenge is adapting to climate change.  How do we mitigate climate change by making our operations more energy efficient, using fewer resources, becoming more circular in our processes? Ho do we adapt by using less water when scarcity strikes, or managing surface water better at times of excess rainfall. Water Europe members have the lived experience from a wide range of geographies and climates and working together we can support each other to find solutions that fit our own places and that suit our own populations. Celebrating each others’ successes and offer support through challenges.

Utilities are traditionally regarded as the problem owners & the ones in need of innovative solutions. How can utilities become more ambitious in adopting existing innovations & seizing the new opportunities presented?

Utilities are problem owners but in equal measure they are problem solvers sometimes on their own but more often through partnerships. Making the right partnerships is a space Water Europe occupies really well, bringing people together, building confidence in new innovations to get them into active use more quickly. It is often the fear of the unknown, low risk appetite or fear of failure that makes utilities seem slow at adopting new innovations, Water Europe  has a role to play in overcoming that caution.

Water Europe aims to build a Water-Smart Society. From your point of view, which actions shall we put forward to make this happen and how could utilities contribute to that?

Water Europe is at the forefront of the conversation about building a Water Smart Society. It publishes thought leadership works like  “The Value of Water” and the “Manifesto” and takes part in and hosts events exploring water smart issues. Bringing the topic to life, in simple to understand terms, is essential. Utilities can be large scale exemplars of water smartness, they are an integral part of society with the power to impact everyone’s life. Utilities can build partnership and collaborations, run information campaigns and initiate discussions on water smart issues. Utilities can exemplify the changes that we need to see across all parts of society, that’s why college C is a vital part of the Water Europe family.


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