Our aim, when it comes to the water environment, is to help preserve and improve the quality of our lochs, rivers, estuaries, wetlands, groundwaters and coastal waters so that they are sustainable for the future.

It is our job to help ensure that the quality of our water, which is generally good, continues to improve and to tackle ongoing problems and new threats as they arise.

And it’s no easy job.

Pollution can occur when discharges from factories and sewage treatment works, as well as chemical run-off in urban areas and areas of intensive agriculture, enter our watercourses. In our regulatory role, we work to reduce the effects that these activities have on our water environment and control the levels of pollutants that can be discharged in our water. Across Scotland our Environmental Protection Officers work with business, industry and the agricultural sector offering regulatory advice, issuing licenses and carrying out site visits. They also respond to and investigate water pollution incidents.

We monitor and analyse samples from various water sources to help identify the status of our water environment and alert us to any harm being caused by human activities. The water quality status of our rivers and burns can be determined from water samples; by our ecologists who look at the animals and plants found living there, and by our many scientists who carry out analysis at our state-of-the-art labs in Aberdeen and North Lanarkshire. Bathing water quality is determined from samples taken by our National Monitoring Team, and the crew and marine scientists on board our survey vessel, the Sir John Murray, sample and monitor our coastal waters. Our hydrologists monitor river levels and flows across Scotland, providing valuable information that is used in relation to abstractions, river engineering (dams etc.), flood forecasting and climate change modelling. With the help of a network of volunteers they also monitor Scotland’s rainfall.

SEPA’s role in protecting and improving the water environment also involves working with our many partners. We are responsible for coordinating the development and implementation of Scotland’s river basin management plan, and it is the job of our river basin management team to work with organisations, water managers and water users to ensure everyone who has a stake in the water environment can contribute to the plan.

Our staff also provide advice and guidance to local authorities and developers in relation to planning applications and potential impacts on the water environment, and work with Scottish Government and partner organisations to help shape new legislation and policy that will protect our water environment now, and into the future.

All this helps us to improve and prevent further damage to Scotland’s water environment and, if need be, take action against those responsible for causing pollution.

Meet some of our staff to find out how water, and working to protect it, has become part of their life:

 Sean Morrison
Sean Morrison, Ecologist
 Helen James photo
Helen James, Hydrologist
 Shona McConnell photo
Shona McConnell, River Basin Planning Co-ordinator
Cara Ezzi photo 
Cara Ezzi, Sampling Officer, National Monitoring Team (video)


Find out more about our work to protect and improve the water environment: