River Tay catchment

Catchment overview

The River Tay catchment is over 5000km2, with the River Tay itself flowing 193km from its source at Ben Lui into the Firth of Tay just beyond Perth.  

Only the lower reaches of the River Tay however have been designated a priority catchment for targeted action to address diffuse pollution sources. The priority catchment area includes the River Tay from Ballinluig to Perth, the River Almond, the River Isla and many of its tributaries, as well as the Lunan Lochs chain and the Loch of Lintrathen. In many of these areas, diffuse pollution impacts are being found in both the surface and groundwaters.

Catchment walk surveys

As part of efforts to improve water quality in the River Tay priority catchment, our staff walked approximately 1000 km of the river and its tributaries during 2010 and 2011. The focus of this work was to collect information on diffuse pollution sources, notably, breaches of the Diffuse Pollution General Binding Rules (DP GBR’s). 

The results from these surveys are still being compiled, however the main diffuse pollution issues found related to livestock poaching or erosion within five metres of a river or burn and land being cultivated within two metres of a river or burn (DP GBR’s 19 and 20 respectively). 

As well as collecting information on diffuse sources of pollution, the surveys also recorded issues relating to:

  • septic tanks and other point source pressures;
  • the presence of invasive non-native species such as Giant hogweed and Himalayan balsam;
  • flytipping;
  • the presence of structures such as dams and weirs, bank protection and alterations to the natural shape of the river e.g. channel straightening or dredging.

1:1 farm visits

SEPA is planning to start 1:1 farm visits in the catchment in October 2012. Further awareness raising events for both land managers and advisors will be organised in advance of this date. 

Tay priority catchment steering group

An informal stakeholder group has been set up to help steer the work that is being carried out by SEPA in the catchment. This group includes representatives from the following organisations:

SEPA is also in the process of setting up a number of farmer-led sub-groups, the first of which will focus on the arable/potato growing sector.



SEPA is hosting an event for agricultural advisors, consultants and contractors on Thursday 26th July 2012 at SEPA’s Perth office (Strathearn House) for agricultural advisors, consultants and contractors.

This event is primarily aimed at (but not limited to) those working within the River Tay and River South Esk diffuse pollution priority catchments. There will be a series of presentations, followed by time for questions and discussion. It’s an opportunity for you to find out about the work that SEPA is doing in relation to diffuse pollution and what this means for you. The outline of the morning will be roughly as follows:

 Time  Topic
 09:15  Tea/coffee on arrival
 09:30  The rural diffuse pollution plan for Scotland
 10:00  Interpretation of the diffuse pollution GBR’s
 10:50  Questions/discussion
 11:00  What to expect from the 1:1 farm visits
 11:50  Questions/discussion
 12:00  Close

For interest in this event or for further information, please email susan.arnott@sepa.org.uk.

Leaflets and Guidance

Diffuse pollution (GBR) leaflets
 DP GBR 18: Storage and application of fertilisers pdf link (2mb)
 DP GBR 19: Keeping of livestock pdf link (2mb)
 DP GBR 20: Cultivation of land pdf link (2.5mb)

 DP GBR 23: Application of pesticidepdf link (1.5mb)   

 DP GBR 24: Operation of sheep dipping  facilities pdf link (4mb)
 DP GBR: Forestrypdf link (1.5mb)
 DP GBRs Explained pdf link (2mb)
Related leaflets
Priority Catchments pdf link (876k)
Septic tanks
Stables and livery yards pdf link (2.5 mb)
Dumb Dumpers

Further guidance