River basin planning

River basin planning involves improving and protecting the water environment

Latest RBMP news

Over the next few months, SEPA will be working with a wide range of responsible bodies, industries and stakeholders to build the partnerships necessary to deliver improvements to Scotland’s water environment.


Running in parallel with this period is the publication of consultations on the second river basin plans for both the Scotland and Solway Tweed river basin districts which will be published in December 2015.


Your input to these consultations and contribution to the delivery of the second river basin plans is essential if we are to meet the challenges facing our water environment in the future.

Significant Issues

The digests for the “Current condition and challenges for the future” consultations for the Scotland and Solway Tweed river basin districts are now available.

Given the high level of support received, the proposals outlined in the consultations are now being taken forward to develop the second river basin plans. Ongoing engagement and formal consultation will provide further opportunities to influence what can be achieved for the water environment over the next twelve years. The consultations on the development of the second river basin plans will be published in November 2014.


Scottish Government updates

Improving the physical condition of Scotland's water environment


The consultation on the second round of River Basin Management identifies that, in Scotland, the banks and beds of over 300 water bodies are adversely affected. This is caused by the legacy of historic engineering activities such as the construction of dams, weirs and culverts, and land use activities such as poaching by livestock and cultivation close to the watercourse.


This is one of the most challenging aspects of our work to improve Scotland’s water environment. Progress to date has been relatively limited, and this challenges us to develop a more strategic approach underpinned by legislative drivers and financial incentives.


The Scottish Government has now launched a consultation to strengthen the delivery framework. This sets out proposals in 3 broad areas:

  • promote a more structured approach and greater collaboration in the development and delivery of river restoration projects,
  •  accelerate SEPA’s existing programme of CAR licence reviews for dams, and
  • introduce legislative provisions to help SEPA ensure that structures owned by public authorities do not cause adverse impacts or prevent fish passage.

The consultation will run until 22 May 2015. It is expected that the finalised Regulations will be laid before the Scottish Parliament in the autumn of 2015.


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.