SEPA supports the development of renewable energy in Scotland, including hydropower. However, even small hydropower schemes have the potential to adversely affect the water environment. SEPA aims to ensure that an appropriate balance between promoting hydropower and protecting the water environment and other water users is always achieved. This balancing determination will be in line with the policy statement external link issued by the Scottish Government in January 2010.

If you are considering developing a hydropower scheme, you should refer to the web tool or the SEPA Guidance for developers of run-of-river hydropower schemes. pdf link (544kb) This sets out how SEPA intends to achieve Scottish Ministers' policy objectives and contains guidance on the developments that are likely to be acceptable in the context of the Ministers' policy statement. Emphasis will be placed on supporting hydropower developments which can make a significant contribution to Scotland's renewables targets while also minimising any adverse impacts on the water environment.

If you are in the process of developing a hydropower scheme, this section of the website contains information and guidance which will help you with your application. It explains the process of applying for a water use licence and the minimum information you will need to provide SEPA in support of your application. These pages also highlights where other consents are necessary for a development and how these may interact with the SEPA determination.

Information and guidance is available on the following:

  • Regulation
    Information on the regulation that applies to hydropower schemes
  • Applying for a licence
    Guidance on the application process, relevant consents that are required and environmental standards
  • Supporting information
    Guidance on the general information you are required to supply in support of an application, and details of what is required in relation to hydrological data, fish and fish habitats, and protected areas and species.
  • Useful links
    Details of organisations that may be helpful sources of further information

Note: The hydrological information requirements for applications have been amended.  Please follow the amended Table 3 below for details. These amendments will apply for all applications, and those for which SEPA have been approached for pre-application advice, received from 26 April 2013

Table 3: Hydrological information requirements

  Scale of impact*    
River Waterbody Status



<0.35 GWh per annum

500m - 1500m >1500m
 High Status A B B
 Less than high Status A A B

*Impact is expressed as the length of river between the abstraction(s) and return or the annual generating capacity of the scheme

Key to different flow information requirements:

A: LowFlows software estimate (subject to note 3 below);
B: Licence application requires a minimum of 1 year of monitoring data.  For schemes which fall into this category, where the applicant does not submit the required flow data, SEPA may choose to determine the application using the LowFlows software and apply precautionary limits when setting mitigation conditions in any licence granted.


  1. Where there is more than one intake, the distance between the intakes and the turbine tailrace will include the relevant lengths of each tributary. SEPA will accept distances measured using 1:25,000 Ordnance Survey maps, referring to grid references for intakes and tailrace.
  2. Contact your local SEPA office or hydro.enquiries@sepa.org.uk for advice on the status of a river water body.   
  3. Sites which contain important bryophyte communities (see section 3.5), are within or connected to a protected area with water dependent interests, or are subject to third party interests may require site-specific monitoring.  In such cases SEPA should be consulted to determine the flow data required.”

Best practice

A best practice guide has been developed to direct the construction industry to the appropriate sections of the existing guidance.