The ecological condition of Scotland’s water environment will be further protected and improved for future generations through a comprehensive new action plan, backed by enhanced resources and a multi-million pound package of investment.
The River Basin Management Plans, developed and delivered collaboratively, set out a range of priority measures, including working with land managers to reduce diffuse pollution from agriculture, and supporting the passage of migratory fish such as salmon.
To complement these actions and ensure that rivers, beaches and urban waters are free from debris and reduce spills from sewers, Scottish Water has also published its own route map and announced plans to invest half a billion pounds in Scotland’s waste water network.
This combined programme of work will ensure that Scotland’s rivers, lochs, estuaries, coastal areas and groundwater can continue to supply drinking water, support fisheries, offer an essential resource for business and agriculture, and serve as a source of recreation that promotes health and wellbeing.
Addressing the Scottish Parliament today, Environment Minister Mairi McAllan said:
“Scotland is already renowned worldwide for the quality of our rivers, lochs, wetlands and seas. Two thirds of our waters are already in good condition – far above the European average – and, this year 99% of bathing waters have passed environmental standards with more than ever reaching ‘excellent’ status.
“Our natural environment attracts millions of visitors every year and supports our exports of high-quality produce. Maintaining this resource is vital to Scotland’s continued success and it is critical that we manage the water environment to ensure that the needs of society, economy and environment can be met and maintained for future generations.
“Since 2010 Scottish Water has worked with SEPA to upgrade 104 wastewater treatment works and 279 storm overflows, by investing £686 million. And now they plan to go even further, investing a further half a billion pounds to improve protect Scotland’s waste water network.
“The River Basin Management Plans set our ambition and vision not only to protect Scotland’s waters, but also to improve and restore our water environment for the benefit of all. The comprehensive actions set out in the plans are expected to result in 81% of Scotland’s water environment being in a good condition by 2027, which is a significant improvement of 15% on current results.”
Terry A’Hearn, Chief Executive, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, said:
“This year, Scotland welcomed the world to Glasgow, showcasing our stunning environment and global ambition. Our coasts and waters are national assets, critical to our environmental, social and economic wellbeing.
“In Scotland, we’ve got much to celebrate, with rivers, lochs, canals and burns at their best status on record and the best in the UK. 99% of our bathing waters meeting stringent environmental standards and over 1,200 km of rivers have been made accessible to fish. That said, we’ve got more to do.
“We recognise that people have valued their local water environment more than ever during the pandemic. Scotland’s latest River Basin Management Plan builds on progress and prioritises action to improve urban and rural waters, whilst addressing the challenges of our changing climate. The RBMP comes with the first in a series of three-year rolling plans SEPA has required from Scottish Water to reduce the impacts of sewage spills.
“As we’ve seen from recent successes, systemic progress requires partnerships which is why across the next period, we’ll work closely with Scottish Government, Scottish councils, Scottish Water, environment and community groups and others, regulating activities where required as together we take the next steps to deliver an even better water environment for our nation.”
Simon Parsons, Director of Strategic Customer Service Planning at Scottish Water, said:
“Over the past 20 years we have been committed to a programme of investment which has helped to deliver improvements to Scotland’s water environment.
“Scotland is renowned for the quality of its environment and its waters and the publication of our route map today recognises the steps we need to now take to safeguard that reputation in the face of increasingly extreme weather resulting from climate change and the impact it has on an ageing sewer system.
“By announcing a package of planned investments in our waste water system – from our treatment works to our Combined Sewer Overflows – worth up to half a billion pounds, we are underlining our commitment to protecting Scotland’s urban waters for decades to come.
“Customers can also play a huge part – too many inappropriately flushed items such as wet wipes enter our network which either cause sewer flooding, blockages or appear as debris in rivers and beaches.
“We’re committed to working with a wide range of partners to help deliver innovative solutions around surface water removal, reducing impermeable surfaces and pursuing a circular approach to addressing this issue.”
The River Basin Management Plans are published every six years and are developed and delivered by the Scottish Government, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and other public bodies. The plans are underpinned by scientific evidence and information so that action is targeted where it can have the greatest environmental benefit.
SEPA undertakes a comprehensive monitoring programme to assess the condition of Scotland’s water environment. This overall classifications brings together an assessment of four separate themes: water quality, water quantity, fish migration and physical condition. The most recent classification indicates that 66% of Scotland’s water environment overall is already in good condition. This is higher than the average across Europe and significantly higher than England’s 16%.
Source: Scottish Government 22nd December 2021