Scotland’s waters: room for improvement

Less than half of Scotland's rivers and estuaries are in good or better condition, according to the country's environmental watchdog.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) found that 51% of the country’s rivers and estuaries are in moderate, poor or bad condition, with 40% classified as good and only 9% making the grade for the top quality standard.

Lochs and coastal waters fare better in the assessment, and overall 57% of all Scotland’s waters bodies are graded as good or better.

While SEPA said that this provided “an excellent basis for our future livelihoods, economy and recreation” it is calling for cooperation and support to improve the health of all of Scotland’s water bodies.

Colin Bayes, SEPA’s director of environmental protection and improvement, said: “In the past few decades we have dramatically reduced water pollution, resulting in major improvements.”

Recent legislation, however, requires SEPA to consider impacts that go beyond pollution, such as engineering works and invasive non-native species.

This latest assessment of Scotland’s waters uses a new European classification system, and is included in drafts of the first River Basin Management Plans for the Scotland and Solway Tweed river basin districts, published jointly by SEPA and the Environment Agency.

These draft plans are the first steps in the development of a river basin planning system, as required by the European Water Framework Directive, and set out the agencies’ vision for the water environment until 2027.

The draft plans specify the actions to be taken by a range of agencies, industry, NGOs and individuals, in order to produce environmental improvements in a technically feasible and cost-effective way.

These actions are expected to lead to the improvement of an additional 10% of waters.

The draft plans, along with two Scottish Government papers – “Scotland’s Water: Future Directions” and “Restoration of the Water Environment” – have now been put out for public consultation.

Mr Bayes said: “Effectively involving others has been key to developing the draft plans; we are eager to ensure that as many people as possible are involved in helping to achieve the ambitious goals set out.”

The consultation began December 22, 2008, and ends June 22, 2009, although SEPA will be carrying out a first review of responses received before March 22. The final plans will be published in December 2009.

The consultation documents and an interactive map are available on the SEPA website.

Emma Waghorn

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