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Diffuse pollution

Sources of diffuse pollution are often individually minor, but collectively can result in significant environmental damage.

Diffuse pollution is the release of potential pollutants from a range of activities that, individually, may have no effect on the water environment, but, at the scale of a catchment, can have a significant effect.

Problems occur in both rural and urban environments.

Rural problems include:

  • run-off from farmland;
  • run-off from forestry activities;
  • run-off from community and amenity green spaces.

We provide a range of advice and guidance for dealing with rural diffuse pollution.

Urban problems include:

  • run-off from roads, houses and commercial areas;
  • seepage into groundwater from developed landscapes of all kinds;
  • yard run-off from industrial activities.

A range of advice and guidance, including information on sustainable urban drainage (SUDS), is available on our urban diffuse pollution pages.

Activities likely to cause diffuse pollution are regulated by the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011 (more commonly known as the Controlled Activity Regulations (CAR)) and their further amendments.

These regulations give us powers to control activities such as abstractions, impoundments and engineering works which could cause diffuse pollution and therefore affect the water environment.

We are actively involved in a number of projects aimed at finding the best solutions to diffuse pollution: if you have knowledge of case study sites or developments, or diffuse pollution hotspots, or are involved with projects and other work that can inform development of action programmes in Scotland, please contact us.