River Almond not designated as bathing water for 2022 - but water quality improvement plans ongoing

  10 May 2022
Almondell in West Lothian has not been designated as one of Scotland's bathing waters following a decision by Minister for Environment and Land Reform, Mairi McAllan MSP.
  • Minister for Environment and Land Reform, Mairi McAllan, has not designated Almondell on the River Almond as a Scottish bathing water for the 2022 season
  • The location, on the River Almond in West Lothian, did not meet the criteria for designation
  • SEPA and Scottish Water are committed to improving water quality through an ongoing improvement plan

Application for designation 

The application for bathing water status was submitted by Forth Rivers Trust and West Lothian Council.

The submission was considered by the Bathing Water Review Panel and recommendations based on the criteria for designation were passed to the Minister for Environment and Land Reform.

The application for Almondell in West Lothian did not demonstrate large numbers of bathers, which is a key requirement for designation.

Improving water quality in the River Almond

Local outdoor spaces are integral to our physical and mental health and managing them well can improve well-being and other social and cultural benefits for local communities and visitors alike.

SEPA remains committed to taking an active approach to reducing pollution incidents by delivering significant environmental improvements in the Almond catchment. In addition, it has been a constructive participant in the River Almond Water Quality Improvement Group since its inception in June 2021.

The regulator has agreed with Scottish Water that upgrades in seven wastewater treatments works and spill reduction measures on five combined sewer overflows (CSOs) are required, along with significant investment to address sewage litter from unsatisfactory CSOs.

Intelligent monitoring of sewer overflows in the East Calder catchment, which will lead to better understanding of what can be done to reduce spills was set out in Sottish Water’s Improving Urban Waters route map. This will also enable near real-time data to be provided to the public from 2024.

Nathan Critchlow-Watton, SEPA’s Interim Head of Water and Planning, said: 

“Scotland’s waters are at their best status on record and the best in the UK, but rivers like the Almond have a legacy of complex inter-linked issues that need unique solutions.  “While there have been significant improvements in the Almond water environment in the last two decades, the investment in infrastructure that Scottish Water has committed to is needed due to significant population growth in the catchment and likely climate change scenarios.

“The improvements in sewage infrastructure that have been laid out are expected to continue to improve the river ecology to meet the objectives set in the River Basin Management Plans (RBMP).”

Simon Parsons, Director of Strategic Customer Service Planning, Scottish Water, said:

“Scottish Water are committed to continuing to support the protection and improvement of Scotland’s rivers, coastal waters and beaches.  

“We recently published our urban waters route map announcing plans to invest up to half a billion pounds more in Scotland’s waste water network to deliver further improvements and ensure that Scotland’s rivers, beaches and urban waters are free from sewage related debris.

 “The plans will enable us to target investment in improving our monitoring and upgrading the worst performing combined sewer overflows. In the Almond catchment we are delivering new technology and sensors to deliver against our improved monitoring commitment. These sensors are in place across East Calder and already giving us new performance insights – helping us to avoid sewer debris entering the river. We are also making investments to improve our waste water treatment works and combined sewer overflows. 

“Customers also play a huge part in preventing debris in rivers and on beaches and we would like to thank the local community groups who are supporting our new national campaign ‘Nature Calls’. This campaign urges customers not to flush wet wipes (and other items) down the toilet and we are calling for a complete ban on the sale of wet wipes containing plastic.”

Help improve our water environment  

Communities can also help to protect our water environment.  

It’s important that people understand the impact what they flush can have on the environment. Every year Scottish Water teams deal with around 36,000 blockages, costing customers about £7 million annually, and around 80% of those are caused by people flushing the wrong items down the toilet, or pouring fats, oil and grease down the sink. These blockages in the sewer system can result in spills of pollution into the environment. 

Whether you are at home, at work, or on holiday, Scottish Water provides advice on how to protect the network, and Scotland’s water environment, at scottishwater.co.uk/naturecalls 


Notes to editors: 

  • The River Almond Water Quality Improvement Group brings together the River Almond Action Group, Forth Rivers Trust, West Lothian Council, Marine Conservation Society, Friends of Almondell and Calderwood Country Park, West Lothian Councillors and is co-chaired by the local MSP and MP.
  • Water quality is not a factor considered by the Bathing Water Review Panel when reviewing an application for designation.

Bathing water designation process

Any organisation or individual can put forward a bathing water to be considered for designation.

Applicants need to provide good information about the number of beach users, both in and around the water, throughout the bathing season. This is usually in the form of photographic evidence of people in the water or a survey of user numbers. More information, including designation application forms, is available on SEPA’s website at Bathing water designation process 

 Once the application and supporting evidence has been received, it will be considered by the Bathing waters review panel which is chaired by SEPA. The 2021 panel members were:

  • Scottish Environment Protection Agency
  • Marine Conservation Scotland
  • Keep Scotland Beautiful
  • The Society of Chief Officers of Environmental Health in Scotland

Panel observers (no voting rights)

  • Scottish Government
  • Scottish Water

The panel makes recommendations to the Scottish Government’s Minister for Environment, who decides which beaches are designated before the next bathing water season.

Scotland’s bathing waters

More information on Scotland’s bathing waters is available on SEPA’s website. This includes an interactive map of current bathing waters, the 2021 classifications and is also where sample results will be published as they are analysed - Bathing Waters: Homepage (sepa.org.uk)