Priority catchments

Diffuse pollution priority catchments have been identified by SEPA as catchments failing to meet environmental standards.. Each catchment has a dedicated coordinator who is responsible for liaising with local land managers, organising visits and ensuring measures are implemented where non-compliances are identified as detailed within the Rural diffuse pollution plan for Scotland. This approach was agreed in partnership with the Diffuse Pollution Management Advisory Group (DPMAG).
The first RBMP identified 14 priority catchments containing some of Scotland’s most important waters (for conservation, drinking water, bathing and fishing), using a risk based approach for action

The 14 priority catchments

SEPA has appointed dedicated priority catchment co-ordinators to investigate the issues each catchment faces and liaise with local land managers to implement the measures. The priority catchment work is also part of the Diffuse Pollution Management Advisory Group (DPMAG) Implementation Plan.
The priority catchments identified for this work are listed below.

Priority catchments - first cycle 
River Ayr Eye Water
River Doon River Tay
River Irvine River South Esk
River Garnock River Dee (Grampian)
North Ayrshire Coast River Ugie
Galloway Coastal River Deveron
Stewarty Coastal

Buchan Coastal

A map of these catchments can be found here.

Compliance with environment legislation relating to diffuse pollution has increased significantly following implementation.  For example compliance with the diffuse pollution rules relating to cultivation has increased from 62% at first farm visit to 94% at revisit within the Tay and South Esk catchments. Likewise, compliance with the environmental legislation on 400 dairy farms within the priority catchments has increased from 16% to 50% after revisit with the majority of the remaining 50% working towards compliance.

Due to the progress made the programe was significantly expanded in 2015 and an updated diffuse pollution plan published in 2017.

Rural land use activitites are covered by the Water Environment (Diffuse Pollution) (Scotland) Regulations 2008, referred to as the Diffuse Pollution General Binding Rules (DP GBRs). All rural land users have a responsibility to ensure they are working in line with the DP GBRs. Visit our Diffuse pollution in the rural environment page for more information on the general binding rules.

Contact us

General enquiries on priority catchment work can be sent to