The Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003 implements the Water Framework Directive 2000/60/EC in Scotland, and applies to rivers, lochs, estuaries and coastal waters and underground water.  Under the Act an annual report must be submitted to the Scottish Parliament, detailing progress on implementation.

The Act deals with the protection of the water environment and with water and sewerage services. It imposes duties on public authorities, the Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), in respect of protection of the water environment and provides for the establishment of river basin districts with environmental objectives to be set, river basin management plans to be prepared, river basin district advisory groups to be created, and for the status of the water environment in each river basin district to be monitored. It provides for a register of protected areas to deal with protection of the quality of waters for fish life, shellfish and bathing, protection of habitats and wild birds, and for waters used to supply drinking water to be identified.

Provision may be made in connection with the fixing of charges for water services, for the purposes of protecting the water environment and in connection with measures for remedial and restoration work needed to achieve environmental objectives.  Local authorities are given planning control over marine fish farms.
Changes are made in the Act to the provisions for funding new connections to the water and sewerage infrastructure and clarification of when and how infrastructure vests in Scottish Water is made. There are powers to make regulations for a variety of measures including determining reasonable cost and setting standards for construction and conditions for connection agreements. Scottish Water's role as provider of sewerage services is extended to include sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDS).

The Water Framework Directive sets out objectives for the protection of the water environment of member states which includes a timetable for achieving these objectives.

They include:

  • preventing decline in the status of surface water bodies and groundwater bodies;
  • the protection, enhancement and restoration of all bodies of surface water and  groundwater to attain good surface water status and good groundwater status by 2015;
  • putting a stop to or limiting pollutants entering groundwater and overturning any major trend for increase of the concentration of pollutants in groundwater.

The timetable for implementation of the Directive provides that it be transposed into domestic law and that river basin districts, and the competent authority responsible for implementation of the Directive, be identified by 2003.  SEPA is the competent authority in Scotland.  By 2004 characterisation of river basin districts was to be produced along with analysis of pressures and impacts on them.  For 2005 the target objective is to establish the register of protected areas in each river basin district, and future objectives include the establishment of environmental monitoring and production of river basin management plans. 
The Annual Report for 2004, published this month by the Scottish Executive, reports on progress during 2004 and also looks forward to implementation plans for 2005.

Among the matters dealt with in 2004 (and early 2005) contained in the Annual Report are:

  • the production of maps showing the limits of Scottish transitional waters (i.e. areas of water at river mouths and estuaries where the transition between freshwater and salt water occurs)
  • production of reports containing analysis of pressures and impacts on the water bodies within the Scotland and Solway Tweed River Basin Districts, which will provide a basis for development of the water environment monitoring programme. Water bodies at risk of failing to meet their environmental objectives in 2015 are identified in the reports, which show that around 43% of water bodies fall into this category in Scotland. 

These include 913 river, 167 loch, 23 estuarine, 128 coastal and 25 groundwater bodies.

  • production of two reports on the economics of water use in the Scotland and Solway Tweed River Basin Districts, which examine the interaction between environmental pressures and impacts on Scotland's water and the value from the use of that water to the people and economy of Scotland.
  • production by SEPA of the Register of Protected Areas outlining designated Protected Areas.
  • work on identification of areas to be Drinking Water Protected Areas involving obtaining information on public water supplies. Work on establishing information on private water supplies, about which there is currently inadequate information, will be conducted as a separate phase of designation.
  • work has been carried out on collection of monitoring information and development of new biological monitoring tools to assess ecological quality as part of SEPA's development of a monitoring programme as required under the Directive. There will be ongoing collection of monitoring information throughout 2005. 
  • continuing preparatory work on producing a Scottish River Basin Management Plan Strategy. During the course of 2005, SEPA plans to work with a range of interested parties to begin to implement the final Scottish Strategy.
  • consulting on Controlled Activities Regulations with draft Regulations in the final stages
  • setting up a working group on diffuse pollution, with a strategic action plan now in development, and on which there will be consultation during 2005.
  • setting up a working group to produce draft procedures and requirements for restoration and remedial works. That working group has still to produce its proposals.

The full text of the Annual Report on implementation of the Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act is on the Scottish Executive website at:

The Register of Protected Areas in Scotland is available from the website of SEPA at:

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