Theft from Tweed flood warning site

date07 August 2012

Thieves struck at a gauging station on the River Tweed only a few weeks after the area was on flood warning due to heavy rain and rising rivers.

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The stolen solar panel, which is used to charge the batteries for the station in Glenbreck, did not result in the station being out of operation. However, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) is warning that tampering with gauges and power supplies could result in vital flood warning information not being received in time.

The agency is appealing for dog walkers, river bailiffs or anyone else who may be out and about near rivers in the Scottish Borders to keep an eye out for any future suspicious activity.

Nigel Goody, SEPA's Hydrometry Manager, said:

This may have been seen by the thieves as a quick way to make a couple of pounds, but for the local community this was a dangerous and utterly selfish act. Unfortunately we are seeing an increase in this kind of thing happening across the country and we need help to stop it.

"Stealing these pieces of equipment could have an impact on our ability to provide communities with essential flood warning services, and we encourage anyone seeing suspicious activity at any of our gauging stations in the area to report it to Lothian and Borders Police. These people have stolen from the community, so any information that might help prevent it from happening again would be very helpful indeed."

A SEPA Hydrologist realised the panel was missing when he went to the station to find out why the batteries were not recharging. Analysis of remotely accessible information shows that the solar panel was stolen some time between 5.30am on Tuesday 24 and 5.00am on Wednesday 25 July. The station was back to being operational over the weekend 4 – 5 August.

Nigel warned:

The data gathered by our hydrometry equipment is vitally important for monitoring flood risk and we need our sites to be operational all year round. Our staff work quickly to ensure that any problems are quickly highlighted and resolved, but if this had happened in the middle of a flood event there is a risk we couldn't have got to the site early enough and that would mean that information didn't get to us on time."

A police spokesman said:

Fortunately this theft did not seriously impact upon the operations at the Glenbreck station. However, the stolen solar panel is a vital component in the flood gauging process and we are working closely with SEPA as we investigate this matter.

"Anyone who remembers seeing anything suspicious in the area last Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning is asked to contact police immediately."

The station at Glenbreck is one of 450 gauges that SEPA, Scotland's flood warning and informing authority, operates across the country. Every single one is a vital link to Scotland's Floodline 0845 988 1188 service. SEPA operates flood alert services in partnership with local authorities and the police, based on monitoring of river levels, rainfall, tidal predictions and weather forecasts.

Ends

Notes to editors

  • People can sign up to receive free advance flood warning messages direct to your landline or mobile phone though SEPA's Floodline direct warning service. People will receive a message notifying them when a flood warning message has been issued for their local area. People can sign up online at by calling Floodline on 0845 988 1188.
  • A photograph of a flood gauging station sign can be provided for illustrative purposes. Please contact publicrelations@sepa.org.uk