Private sewage treatment systems / septic tanks

In England, there is a requirement to upgrade septic tanks by 1 January 2020. This does not apply in Scotland.

The requirements in Scotland are outlined on this page. The guidance for any new and modified discharge can be found in the document WAT-RM-03 - Sewage discharges to surface waters.

In Scotland we require that domestic sewage has the appropriate treatment depending on the receiving environment.

What is a private sewage treatment system?

Private sewage treatment systems are widely used for the treatment and disposal of domestic wastewater where connection to the mains sewer isn't available.

Where they are properly maintained, they rarely present a hazard: however, in combination they can have adverse effects on human health, drinking water supplies, shellfish and bathing waters.

If you have a sewage treatment system on your property, you must submit an application to ensure it's authorised by us. Proof of authorisation is required when new properties are being built or where existing properties change hands.

You should ask us to check whether your system is already authorised.

How do I apply?

Our practical guide will let you know what level of authorisation should be applying for.

Please contact us to discuss treatment options before submitting your application.

When you're ready to apply you can download and complete an application form and return it, with the appropriate fee, by post to your local SEPA office.

Compliance with regulations

Private sewage treatment systems are regulated by the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011 and their amendments. Our introduction to the regulations summarises the main features.

Operators are expected to uphold the conditions of their authorisation and we have powers to withdraw your authorisation if you fail to meet its conditions.

We can, if necessary, escalate the level of authorisation in order to protect the water environment.

If you do not agree with the conditions and requirements imposed, you can make an appeal directly to the Scottish Government. The submission of an appeal does not suspend the operations of all authorisations or notices and its conditions.

Help, advice and more information

If you require any further help or advice at any stage during the application process, please contact us.