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Reservoir safety in Scotland

Scotland’s reservoirs are regulated under the Reservoirs (Scotland) Act 2011(“the 2011 Act”). The 2011 Act employs a proportionate and risk based regulatory regime based on the consequences of an uncontrolled release of water on downstream receptors. Some key requirements of the Act include:

  • SEPA taking on the role as the single national regulator for reservoirs safety, providing greater consistency for the industry.
  • Reservoir managers must appoint a Construction Engineer from The All Reservoirs (Scotland)Panel to oversee the design and construction/ alteration of a reservoir, and submit the relevant form to SEPA within the statutory timescales. The Scottish Government are responsible for approving the engineers appointed, updating and maintaining the panel details.
  • Reservoir managers must register their reservoir (with a volume of 25,000m3 or more) with SEPA by submitting a registration form, inundation map and registration fee within statutory timescales. The full registration process is outlined in our registration guidance document and a brief overview of this process can be found in the Registration flow chart.
  • SEPA must maintain a publicly available controlled reservoirs register (CRR) which includes a reservoir inundation map for each registered reservoir, showing the area of land likely to be flooded in the event of an uncontrolled release of water.
  • SEPA must assign a risk designation (of either, high, medium or low) to each registered reservoir, based on the consequences of an uncontrolled release of water.
  • Reservoir managers have two months following the issuing of a provisional risk designation, to make a representation if they disagree with it. Following the end of the two month period, SEPA will issue a first risk designation. If the reservoir manager still disagrees with this, they have another twelve months following the date of the first risk designation to seek a review of it.
  • Reservoir managers must appoint Panel Engineers from the relevant Scottish Government approved panel of engineers, based on the reservoir’s risk designation. The Scottish Government are responsible for updating and maintaining the panel details.
  • Panel engineers must produce annual written statements, inspection reports and certificates in the statutory format, and issue these to reservoir managers and SEPA within statutory timescales.”

Constructing a controlled reservoir

If you are planning to construct a controlled reservoir, you must appoint an approved construction engineer (from the All Reservoirs Panel) who is required to supervise and certify the construction works. The reservoir manger must notify SEPA of the construction engineer appointment and the works that will be starting, at least 28 days before the work commences, using the relevant form which can be found on our forms and guidance page.

Following completion of the works and production of a preliminary certificate by the construction engineer, the reservoir manager has 28 days to register the reservoir with SEPA. For information on how to register a reservoir, see Reservoir Registration.

Reservoir registration

Registration of reservoirs under the Reservoirs (Scotland) Act 2011.

All reservoirs that have the capacity to hold 25,000m3 or more of water above the natural level of the surrounding land are required to be registered with SEPA.

Reservoirs that are currently being constructed need to be registered with SEPA within 28 days of the construction engineer issuing the first preliminary certificate.

If your reservoir has already been constructed but not registered with SEPA then you must register it immediately.

To register a reservoir the reservoir manager is required to complete a reservoir registration form, produce a reservoir inundation map, include the correct registration fee and forward these to SEPA. Once you have registered your reservoir, SEPA will notify you with a risk designation. For information on the risk designation process please see Reservoir Risk Designation.

Please use the registration form below to register with us and ensure you pay the registration fee. For information on the correct registration fee please view the Reservoirs (Scotland) Charging Scheme 2018

It is the responsibility of the reservoir manager to supply reservoir inundation maps at the time of registration. These inundation maps are required to be produced in line with SEPA's Reservoir Inundation Mapping Methodology. Contact us at or 03000 99 66 99 for more information.

The registration form contains guidance on how to complete it and SEPA has produced a number of documents to provide further information which can be found on our Forms and Guidance webpage. If you have any queries after reading these documents, please contact us prior to returning your registration form.

It is the responsibility of the reservoir manager to register their reservoir(s) with SEPA. Failure to do so could result in enforcement action being taken.

Reservoirs (Scotland) Act 2011: Blank registration form

An overview of the pre-registration, registration and post registration process can be found in the Registration flow chart.

Controlled Reservoirs Register

Under Section 9 of the 2011 Act, SEPA is required to establish and maintain a Controlled Reservoirs Register. The Controlled Reservoirs Register contains key information about each registered reservoir including reservoir manager details, panel engineers associated with the reservoir and an inundation map highlighting the area of land that is likely to be flooded in the event of an uncontrolled release of water”.

The following information is available on request:

  1. Safety reports and other associated documentation.
  2. Inspection reports and other associated documentation.
  3. Written recommendations/statements by a supervising engineer.

Please send your enquiry to providing the RES/R number, reservoir name and details of the information you require.

We are required to make this register available to the public. View the Controlled Reservoirs Register.

Reservoir inundation maps

Reservoir inundation maps can be accessed from the publicly available Controlled Reservoirs Register

Reservoir inundation maps will only appear on the Controlled Reservoirs Register once we have received and processed a valid registration document for the reservoir.

It is the responsibility of the reservoir manager to supply reservoir inundation maps at the time of registration. These inundation maps are required to be produced in line with SEPA's Reservoir Inundation Mapping Methodology. Contact us at or 03000 99 66 99  for more information.

We have produced a briefing note on Reservoir inundation mapping and you can download the Summary of the Reservoir Inundation Mapping Methodology. 

Land use planning/development 

SEPA has produced two position statements outlining the interaction between land use planning/development and its reservoir inundation maps and risk designations:

Consideration of new downstream development in SEPA’s Reservoir Risk Designation process


New development – consideration in reservoir risk designation

Assessment of potential application of the reservoir inundation maps for land use planning purposes   position statement 

Reservoir Inundation Maps – potential use for Land Use Planning

Reservoir risk designation is based on the adverse consequences of an uncontrolled release of water, taking into account the consequences on human health, economic activity, cultural heritage and the environment. New development has the potential to increase the adverse consequences of an uncontrolled release of water. SEPA has carefully considered whether new development should be used to update reservoir risk designations at the point of construction, and has decided that reservoir risk designations will not be routinely re-run on the basis on new development downstream, unless a specific representation is made to SEPA. Further information can be found in the above position statement regarding this.

Section 72 of the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009 places a duty on SEPA to provide flood risk advice when requested by a planning authority, with Subsection 3 requiring that this advice is to be based on such information as SEPA possesses. SEPA have considered the usefulness of the information contained in the reservoir inundation maps for land use and development planning, and have concluded that the maps are not appropriate to usefully inform this process. Further information can be found in the above position statement regarding this. Additional advice and guidance relevant to the Land Use Planning process can be found on our Guidance and advice notes section.

Reservoir risk designation

SEPA is required to assign a risk designation to each registered controlled reservoir.

What are the risk designations?

The risk designation categories are high, medium or low. Designations are based on the consequence of an uncontrolled release of water and the affect that this could have on the surrounding area below the reservoir.

The risk designation that is assigned to a reservoir will direct the statutory level of engineering inspection and supervision that is required at that site, with low risk reservoirs requiring a lower level of inspection than medium or high risk reservoirs.

How have they been calculated?

SEPA’s approach to assigning risk designations uses national datasets held by SEPA, the Scottish Government or associated organisations to provide information on the potential consequences of flooding from an uncontrolled release of water. The assessment is primarily an automated process which requires the overlaying of these datasets onto the reservoir inundation maps to determine the likely impacts of reservoir flooding to human health, economic activity, the environment and cultural heritage.

In those situations where a reservoir has multiple dams which are to be assessed, the overall risk designation assigned to the reservoir will be that of the highest designation awarded to any of the dams.

Does a high risk designation mean that the reservoir has a higher risk of flooding?

No. A reservoir can be assigned a high risk designation because of the features that lie below it which could be impacted in the case of an uncontrolled release of water. The features that are considered include domestic properties, infrastructure, business premises, community, agriculture, cultural heritage and environment.

For example, if it has been assessed that a railway would be impacted by an uncontrolled release of water then the reservoir would be assigned a high risk designation. The same would apply if it was shown that an 'A' road in a remote/rural location would be impacted.

Some reservoirs on the Controlled Reservoirs Register do not have a risk designation against them, why is this?

The risk designations have been released to reservoir managers in a phased approach and only when the final risk designation has been provided to the reservoir manager will it appear on the Controlled Reservoirs Register.

How can I make a representation associated with a provisional risk designation?

Following the registration of a controlled reservoir, SEPA is required to provide the reservoir manager with a provisional risk designation as soon as reasonably practicable. Once a reservoir manager has received this provisional risk designation they have 2 months from the date the notice was given in which to make a representation should they disagree with it.

To make a representation to SEPA, please read the Reservoir risk designations: Guidance on representations and reviews document and use the Provisional risk designation representation application form.

How can I apply for a review associated with a risk designation?

Following the registration of a controlled reservoir, and two months after the provisional risk is issued to a reservoir manager, SEPA must notify a reservoir manager of the risk designation. Once a reservoir manager has received this risk designation they have 12 months from the date the notice was given in which to apply for a review should they disagree with it.

To apply for a review to SEPA, please read the Reservoir risk designations: Guidance on representations and reviews document and use the Risk designation review application form.

Review Application Fee

There is a fee for applying for a review. The amount can be found under The Reservoirs (Scotland) Charging Scheme 2018.

Methods of payments are as follows:

  • By credit card – phone 01698 839 029 between the hours of 08.00-22.00 Monday to Friday.
  • Complete the payment through our web payment facility 
  • By BACS, bank transfer or standing order and please provide a remittance advice.
  • Visit your local office, who can accept cheques or cash.

We have produced a briefing note on reservoir risk designation and a risk designation guidance document with more information. .

You can get information on designated environmental and cultural heritage sites referred to in your risk designation summary sheets on Scotlands environment map tool. Click on the Add Map Data layers button and search for the relevant data layers or enter the postcode or NGR of the reservoir in the top right-hand search box.


SEPA statutory 6 yearly review of reservoir risk designations

The Reservoirs (Scotland) Act 2011, under section 20, requires SEPA to review a reservoirs risk designation within a period of 6 years after it was initially given and thereafter every 6 years.

As the majority of risk designations were issued in 2016, SEPA will now be undertaking the statutory 6 yearly reviews of these reservoirs risk designations and will be contacting reservoir managers with their reservoirs reviewed risk designation.

As part of the risk designation review process SEPA are required to provisionally confirm the existing risk designation or provisionally provide a revised risk designation to the reservoir manager.

Once a reservoir manager has received the provisional risk designation they have 2 months in which they can make a representation if they do not agree with the provisional risk designation.

Information on how a representation can be made is contained on SEPA’s reservoir webpages.

If you wish to make a representation then please use this form.

Following the end of the 2 month representation period SEPA will, having taken into account any representations that have been received, confirm the risk designation that is to be assigned to the reservoir.

A reservoir manager may seek a review of the confirmed risk designation if they are dissatisfied with it. The review from the reservoir manager must be received within 12 months of receiving notice of the confirmed risk designation. It should be noted that there is a fee that must be paid by the reservoir manager when seeking a review. This fee is refundable if the risk designation is amended following the requested review.

Information on how to seek a review and its associated fee are available on SEPA’s reservoir webpages at the links below;

Risk designation review application form 
Charging scheme development

SEPA has produced further guidance documents on the risk designation process which are available on SEPA’s reservoir webpages at the links below;

Reservoirs briefing note: risk designation
Guidance on SEPAs reservoir risk designation


Report an incident at your reservoir

Incident reporting in Scotland under the Reservoirs (Scotland) Act 2011 is currently undertaken on a voluntary basis as the required section in the Act has still to be commenced.

It is good practice to report incidents to enable the appropriate bodies to identify any potential trends or similarities in reported incidents which could support research and investigations into these issues.

If your reservoir is registered and there’s an incident that could result in damage or injury, you should contact us immediately on our 24 Hour Pollution Hotline: 0800 80 70 60 and ask to speak to the Reservoirs Regulatory Unit.

Examples of incidents are:

  • water going over the top of the dam (overtopping);
  • a leak;
  • slope instability;
  • cracks in the dam;
  • instrumentation readings that show abnormal movement in the dam;
  • material failure (for example landslip down an embankment of a dam);
  • pollution.

If your reservoir is high or medium risk, you should contact your supervising engineer immediately to make them aware of the incident. If that’s not possible, you should contact your inspecting engineer.

Once you have resolved the incident at your reservoir you should complete the incident reporting form and forward it to our Reservoir Regulatory Unit.

It should be noted that you may be held responsible for any damage or injury caused due to a sudden uncontrolled release of water.

Reservoir Charging Scheme

The Reservoirs (Scotland) Act 2011 gives Scottish Ministers the power to make provisions for SEPA to recover the direct regulatory and administrative costs of carrying out SEPA’s duties in relation to controlled reservoirs, under the Reservoirs (Scotland) Act 2011 sections 14 and 23.

The table below summarises the 2023-2024 charges for registration of a reservoir with SEPA; the fee for submitting a Review of the reservoir risk designation; and the reservoir subsistence fees for High, Medium and Low risk reservoirs.

The Reservoirs (Scotland) Charging Scheme 2023-2024
Registration fee £668.00
Risk designation review £469.00
Subsistence fees
High risk reservoir £527.00
Medium risk reservoir £355.00
Low risk reservoir £216.00


The invoice is an annual subsistence fee that is payable to us by the reservoir manager of a controlled reservoir.  The amount is dependent on the risk designation that has been assigned to the reservoir. This is because those reservoirs that have been given a ‘High’ risk designation require a greater level of regulation and effort from SEPA than those assigned a ‘Medium’ or ‘Low risk designation.

The reason SEPA has to charge a subsistence fee is that the Scottish Government has stipulated that SEPA must recover the costs of regulating the Reservoirs (Scotland) Act 2011. Previously the Local Authorities were directly funded and therefore the reservoir managers did not have to pay a fee.

SEPA initially consulted on the draft reservoirs charging scheme in 2015 and as part of this reservoir managers of reservoirs that were previously registered with the Local Authorities were contacted to make them aware of the consultation process. SEPA received 29 responses which represented approximately 12% of reservoir managers and we responded to each of these individually.

In addition to the charging scheme consultation that SEPA undertook in 2015 we again consulted on the reservoirs charging scheme in 2017 prior to the release of the revised charging scheme for 2018/19. Again SEPA wrote to all reservoir manages who had registered their reservoirs with SEPA to make them aware of the consultation.

Within the reservoirs charging scheme there are not any exemptions for such things as ‘environmental service’ unlike Controlled Activities Regulations (CAR) water licenses. This is because the same level of regulation applies to all types of reservoirs with the same risk designation and therefore the level of effort from SEPA must be cost recovered.

The work that SEPA undertakes under the Reservoirs (Scotland) Act 2011, funded under the associated charging scheme, includes:

  • Improvements in reservoir safety by helping reservoir managers to comply with the legislation.
  • Increased protection to the public from the risk of reservoir flooding, providing greater security for people, property and infrastructure.
  • Proportionate regulation focused on reservoirs classified as High Risk.
  • A uniformed approach.
  • Consistency and transparency in regulation through dealing with one body (SEPA) rather than 32 local authorities.
  • Updating and maintaining the ‘Controlled Reservoirs Register’.
  • Ensuring emergency response contacts, procedures and engineer contacts are up to date for emergency responders.
  • Providing advice and guidance to reservoir managers with regard to the Reservoirs (Scotland) Act 2011. This includes many guidance documents and briefing notes that can be found on our website.
  • Ensure non-compliant reservoir mangers become compliant and do not continue to avoid costs by being non-compliant.


Yes the aforementioned credit notes should be issued automatically once the relevant notification and documentation has been processed by the RRU, if you have any queries regarding the issuing of credit notes for a reservoir please contact the finance department through the SEPA Contact Centre in the first instance.

Panel Engineer information

If you are a reservoir manger that is required to engage a panel engineer for your reservoir please go to the Scottish Governments website, where information is provided on panel engineers who can operate in Scotland. The Scottish Government are responsible for approving the Engineers appointed, updating, and maintaining the panel details.

If you wish to be on the Scottish panel of engineers you need to apply to Scottish Ministers. Supporting information and the application form can be found on the Scottish Government website

If you are a panel engineer and your contact details change, please ensure to notify the Scottish Government using the contact information provided at the bottom of the following webpage. Once your details have been updated on the relevant panel by the Scottish Government, we can use this information to update our own records.”

The Scottish Government have produced Word versions of the certificates, reports and written statements that are contained in the Reservoirs (Scotland) Regulations 2016 that must be used by panel engineers. These can be found on the Scottish Government website

SEPA has produced an information leaflet for panel engineers operating in Scotland under the Reservoirs (Scotland) Act 2011. This leaflet notes some of the key changes under the new reservoir safety legislation.

SEPA, in consultation with a number of panel engineers, have produced two guidance documents to support engineers in completing Schedule 12 inspection reports and Schedule 15 supervising engineers written statements.

The British Dam Society is looking to encourage young people to pursue a carer in dams and reservoirs, view their video for more information.

Fixed monetary penalties and variable monetary penalties for reservoir managers

Since January 2019 SEPA has been able to issue Fixed Monetary Penalties (FMPs) of between £300 and £1,000 to reservoir managers.

In addition, SEPA also has the ability to issue Variable Monetary Penalties (VMPs) of up to £40,000 for majority of offences within the legislation.

All offences that SEPA can serve FMPs and VMPs for can be found in Schedule 4 of The Environmental Regulation (Enforcement Measures) (Scotland) Order 2015 (

They include failure to:

  • send in engineer appointment notifications
  • send in new reservoir manager notifications
  • send in ceasing to be reservoir manager notifications
  • send in change to controlled reservoir information notifications including contact details and reservoir specific detail
  • send in notification of relevant works for new and existing reservoirs
  • co-operate with other reservoir managers where there are multiple reservoir managers at one reservoir
  • register a new reservoir
  • appoint a construction engineer
  • keep records of water levels and visual inspections as instructed by a Supervising Engineer
  • comply with direction as to the taking of measures in inspection report
  • comply with an enforcement notice
  • Failure to comply with directions as to the taking of measures in inspection report
  • Failure to comply with enforcement notice

Appointing engineers, carrying out engineer instructions and ensuring that SEPA holds up-to-date reservoir information, including engineer appointments and contact details is a reservoir manager’s statutory duty.

There are some reservoir managers who continue to fail to notify us of changes to reservoir information or fail to carry out what is required of them which results in SEPA’s Reservoirs Team spending significant amounts of time addressing these issues or chasing for this information.

FMPs and VMPs will support SEPA’s enforcement work to ensure reservoir managers of Scotland’s controlled reservoirs are sending in the statutory notifications within the correct timescales, and carrying out their statutory duties, which enables SEPA to have true and correct information on each of the controlled reservoirs and ensure statutory duties are being adhered to.

This is most important in a reservoir emergency where it is crucial that SEPA has the most up-to-date information about a controlled reservoir, including contact details and reservoir specific details.

For further information on SEPA's enforcement powers including FMPs and VMPs please see our enforcement page.

Advice note following the Toddbrook Reservoir incident, August 2019 

SEPA and the Scottish Government have produced an advice note that summarises the lessons learnt from the Toddbrook incident, that occurred in August 2019 following heavy rainfall that led to the partial collapse of the spillway and the declaring of a major incident.

The advice note provides important technical advice and recommended actions for reservoir managers and engineers to consider when reviewing the safety of their reservoirs. It is based on the findings of the reports published on 16 March 2020, links to both are contained within the attached advice note.

The advice note can be found here.

Consultation on the revised guidance on the use of enforcement action

Every day SEPA works to protect and enhance Scotland's environment, using a range of regulatory tools to ensure compliance with environmental law.

The 2014 The Regulatory Reform (Scotland) Act enabled the single largest ever expansion to SEPA’s set of enforcement powers, and a staged approach to their implementation has been taken to make sure the powers are used effectively and appropriately.

Further information on SEPA’s approach to regulatory enforcement can be found on the Enforcement pages.

Reservoirs Privacy Notice

For information on how we collect and use personal information to carry out SEPAs regulatory duties under the Reservoirs (Scotland) Act 2011 and Reservoirs (Scotland) Regulations 2016 please read our Privacy Notice.

Contact us

For further enquires relating to the implementation of the 2011 Act please contact us.