Getting our waters ship shape

date21 November 2012

Around a quarter of Scottish rivers, lochs and coastal waters have been physically altered because of historic industry, urban and rural land development. Improving the physical condition of these waters could achieve many benefits for human health and the environment, from reducing flood risk to habitat protection.

A consultation has been launched by Paul Wheelhouse, Scottish Government Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, today (21 November 2012).

The consultation contains proposals on how the agencies responsible for protecting and enhancing the Scottish water environment, and the industries that rely on the water environment for economic prosperity, can work together to maximise the opportunities available for improvements.

'Improving the physical condition of Scotland's water environment' details the actions which will be needed to meet targets set by Scotland's river basin management plans.  Those who can help to deliver the improvements, including public bodies and private industries, now have the opportunity to input to the plan and provide feedback on the actions that are being assigned to them.

The consultation is being led by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse said:

Water is one of Scotland's most abundant natural resources. It is hugely important to the success of many of our iconic products and industries and makes a valuable contribution to the quality of life in Scotland. That is why we must continue to do all we can to protect our water environment. Scotland's River Basin Management Plans set out key objectives for this protection and SEPA have committed a large amount of resource into meeting these.

"This draft plan will further improve and enhance the condition of Scotland's water environment. The work carried out in the pilot catchments will also give opportunity to demonstrate the benefits for society and the environment, and also help to reduce flood risk and protect natural habitats. That is great news for the people of Scotland and the industries that rely on the water environment for economic prosperity."

David Sigsworth, SEPA Chairman added:

Around a quarter of Scotland's rivers, lochs and burns are affected by physical changes such as culverting, engineered banks and shores, fish barriers and straightened channels. These changes have important impacts on erosion, sediment build up, the flow of water and wildlife.  They can act as barriers to migratory fish, and contribute to flooding.  The Scottish river basin management plans set out challenging, but proportionate, targets for improvement. The draft plan sets out a strong role for partners in delivering improvements to the physical condition of Scotland's water environment, and helping to ensure that we maximise the benefits which can be achieved."

The consultation document covers key issues which affect the physical condition of Scotland's water environment, as each requires a different approach. These are:

  • Barriers to fish migration.
  • Improving the condition of rural rivers and lochs.
  • Improving the condition of rivers and lochs in towns and cities.
  • Improving the condition of estuaries and coasts.
  • Restoration and flood risk management.

David Sigsworth continued:

One solution really does not fit all, and we need to take the circumstances of each water course into consideration before we start planning any remediation. Actions will be developed in partnership, stakeholder input will be valuable, and it will be important to take a proportionate approach which balances the costs and benefits of improving the water environment."

Mr Wheelhouse also announced funding for the development of pilot catchment projects, which will demonstrate how river basin planning objectives can be delivered through catchment measures which also contribute towards reducing flood risk.

The catchments selected are:

  • the River Dee (NE Scotland Area Advisory Group (AAG) area);
  • StheSouth Esk (River Tay AAG area);
  • the River Nith (Solway AAG area);
  • the River Glazert (part of the River Kelvin, Clyde AAG area).

The project also aims to achieve other benefits associated with restoration such as reducing diffuse pollution, improving biodiversity climate change adaptation and targets to protect and improve protected areas.


Notes to Editors

  • Images will be available on request. Please email
  • The event was held at Almond Valley Heritage Centre.
  • It involved a short site visit to nearby Kirkton Weir to allow discussion of some of the issues involved in restoring the physical condition of the River Almond.
  • Visit and click on the 'Consultation' tab at the top of the page.