Responsibility for reservoir safety transferred to SEPA

date01 April 2016

From today (1 April, 2016) responsibility for the regulation of Scotland’s reservoirs has now transferred to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

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With the introduction of the Reservoirs (Scotland) Act 2011, the safety of all existing reservoirs over 25,000m3 capacity will now be regulated by SEPA. The 2011 Act replaces the Reservoir Act 1975 under which individual local authorities were responsible for reservoir safety and brings a number of key changes to the reservoir industry.

The transfer brings regulation under a single enforcement authority for the first time in Scotland, whilst providing a more consistent inspection regime across all reservoirs. As required by the 2011 Act, each reservoir has been assigned a risk designation of high, medium or low, according to the consequences of an uncontrolled release of water. Inundation maps have been produced to support this work which can be viewed on SEPA’s web based Controlled Reservoirs Register.

The transfer follows an extensive registration period and consultation in 2015 during which reservoir engineers and operators provided feedback on SEPA’s new approach to regulation.

Les Watson, SEPA’s Flood Risk Manager, said:

“The shift in regulation from local authority to SEPA has been a huge initiative and the work we start today will help to ensure a more consistent approach to managing reservoir safety across Scotland.

“These water bodies are a vital national asset, and their ability to operate safely and be maintained to a high standard are of paramount importance to our economy as well as our national wellbeing.”

For more information about the Reservoirs (Scotland) Act 2011, its implementation and SEPA’s new role visit or contact


Notes to editors

More information on the Controlled Reservoirs Register or Risk Designations -

Reservoirs (Scotland) Act 2011

The Reservoirs (Scotland) Act 2011 will introduce a new risk based approach to inspections, with each reservoir designated as high, medium or low risk, dependent on the consequences of an uncontrolled release of water. The frequency of inspections will therefore focus more on higher risk reservoirs, while ensuring all dams are properly maintained and safe.

The 2011 Act is being implemented through a phased approach and will introduce a number of key changes and benefits to the reservoir industry:

  • SEPA becomes the national enforcement and regulatory body in Scotland, providing greater consistency for the industry.
  • Risk designations based on the consequences of an uncontrolled release of water will be assigned to each reservoir.
  • Different levels of statutory monitoring and inspection by engineers based on the risk designation, with low risk sites having less regulation than higher risk sites.
  • When the 2011 Act is fully implemented, the threshold for registration will reduce from 25,000 cubic metres to 10,000 cubic metres capacity, bringing smaller reservoirs under regulation and providing a more comprehensive regulatory regime.
  • The Reservoir Manager or owner, referred to as the Undertaker in the 1975 Act, has a wider definition in the 2011 Act to include those that lease or use the water.