River basin planning

River basin planning involves improving and protecting the water environment

The first river basin plans for the Scotland, and Solway Tweed river basin districts were published in 2009. These plans include targets for improving water quality, impacts on flows and levels and the physical condition of the water environment and preventing deterioration.

Latest RBMP news

Managing Invasive Non-Native Species in Scotland’s Water Environment: A Supplementary Plan to the River Basin Management Plans

This plan describes the roles of organisations and partners involved in risk assessment, monitoring, classification, data collection, and prevention and control mechanisms. Most importantly, the plan identifies resourcing pressures and proposes key actions to address these in order to ensure that the WFD objectives are met in future river basin planning cycles.


Scottish Government updates

Implementation in Scotland of the River Basin District Standards and Status Directions.


Scottish Government has issued new Directions to SEPA to incorporate an updated package of standards for the water environment in Scotland. These cover water quality, water quantity, physical condition and ecological standards. These standards are used to underpin the classification schemes needed to assess the state of the water environment. Revised Directions (now called ‘Status Directions’) incorporating the changes needed to take account of the updated and expanded set of environmental standards have also been published.


These Directions are now in force and can be viewed using the links below;

The Scotland River Basin District (Standards) Directions

The Scotland River Basin District (Status) Directions

The Solway Tweed River Basin District (Standards) (Scotland) Directions

The Solway Tweed River Basin District (Status) (Scotland) Directions


To support Directions the Scottish Government has also published a policy statement on ‘Assessing Scotland’s water environment – use of environmental standards, condition limits and classification schemes’. This policy statement and the associated Standards and Status Directions are intended to provide stakeholders with a better understanding of our approach to the protection of the water environment.


Greater transparency of RBMP procedure


The Scottish Government has made additional Regulations which describe in more detail the process of setting of environmental objectives, and provide clarity on the development and implementation of the programme of measures necessary to meet the objectives. They are also more explicit regarding the role of responsible authorities in delivering the objectives. The regulations can be found at: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ssi/2013/323/contents/made 


Developing the second river basin management plans

We are currently working towards producing the second river basin management plans in 2015.

 There are three key steps to producing the second river basin management plans:

The second plans will:

  • be informed by what we have learnt through delivering the first cycle objectives; and
  • target improvement to where we have confidence of environmental impact, and also where most benefits will be achieved

During the first cycle it has become apparent that the most challenging of the pressures are from diffuse source pollution, and changes to the physical condition of rivers, lochs and coastal waters. Together, these pressures cause significant environmental harm affecting fisheries and protected areas such as bathing and drinking waters, but also impact upon the capacity of our water environment to support development and adapt to climate change.

In 2013, we published an assessment of the current condition of the water environment and challenges for its future management. That report provided a detailed description of progress towards the objectives we had set for 2015 and identified where we would need to make a step change in our management of particular pressures, such as diffuse pollution, if we are to meet our goals for 2021 and beyond. The reports can be found on the significant issues page.

Mechanisms for tackling these pressures will be at the heart of the second plans. The RBMP National Advisory Group is advising on how we can more effectively tackle these pressures in the second cycle. These views are summarised in the strategy paper ‘Tackling the challenges for Scotland’s water environment’ pdf link (80kb)

Getting involved in the development of the second plans

Further information about the planned engagement work being undertaken to develop the second plans can be found on the how we work with others page.

River basin management plans objectives are delivered by a broad range of organisations and sectors. To set objectives for the second plans SEPA is engaging through:

  • sector/pressure specific meetings and workshops
  • advisory groups
  • formal consultations 

To initiate this process SEPA consulted across the Scotland and Solway Tweed river basin planning districts to engage interested parties on development of the second RBMP cycle. The comments and suggestions we received in 2013 continue to be used to improve the engagement process. For summaries of the comments received see the digests below:

Comments received will be used to improve the engagement process, which will inform development of the second RBMPs.