Back to health for the River Clyde

Water quality improves significantly.

Investment in the River Clyde has helped to tackle pollution and restore habitats, Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham has confirmed.  

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) which monitors the water quality in Scotland’s lochs and rivers has reported the Clyde is in significantly better health than expected thanks to investment by Scottish Water, SEPA, farmers and local authorities. 

Between 2010 and 2021, Scottish Water will have invested more than £600 million in wastewater treatment works and sewerage systems in the area. 

The Scottish Government’s Water Environment Fund (WEF) which is administered by SEPA has helped restore natural habitats by removing fish barriers and concrete channels to allow fish to reach the upper reaches of the Clyde catchment. The WEF fund has already invested £3.1 million in river restoration projects near Hamilton and Shotts, with more investment planned for this coming year. 

These efforts have resulted in: 

• River quality improving from ‘bad’, the worst category, to ‘moderate’ in 2015 with some stretches of river now at ‘excellent’;
• The quality of water discharged from wastewater treatment works has improved and overflows from sewers have been limited;
• 100 km of waterways opened up with salmon reintroduced in higher parts of the river;
• Less pollution from agricultural sources. 

Ms Cunningham said: 

“The Clyde flows through the very heart of Glasgow and for centuries the river has provided our largest city with a gateway to the world and a source of prosperity.

“However, since industrialisation in the early 1800s, we’ve abused this river, tipping our waste into it without a second thought for the impact it has on the communities living along the banks, water quality or the wider environment. 

“That’s why I am delighted to see further evidence that we have secured a lasting change in the Clyde’s fortunes. 

“These improvements are down to the hard work of SEPA and its partners and are the result of Scottish Water’s investment of more than £600 million, much of which has already been delivered or is being delivered as we speak. 

“That hard work and investment has seen water quality improve, aquatic species return to the waters, and an end to the stench which once made residents’ lives a misery.  

“We will not be complacent and recognise that further improvements are required to continue these improvements and achieve even higher water quality and have set out next steps in the river basin management plans.

“I want to ensure we can all take pride in the Clyde – today and tomorrow.”

Bob Downes, SEPA chairman said:

“Rivers are an essential natural resource and it’s important for us to recognise that it’s not just a river’s cleanliness that makes it healthy, but also the life it sustains. The work we have completed so far with our many partners has made a significant difference to the Clyde, not only through improvements to water quality, but also by opening up stretches of rivers that migratory fish have been unable to access for decades. 

“Having a healthier River Clyde system is a real benefit to people living in Glasgow. We need to ensure that our rivers are in as good a condition as they can be, providing a healthy environment and contributing to everyone’s well-being. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but seeing the results of the hard work that has already happened is very rewarding and encouraging.”

Professor Simon Parsons, Scottish Water’s Director of Strategic Customer Service Planning, said: 

“Scottish Water is continuing with its investment in the Greater Glasgow area’s waste water infrastructure – the biggest in more than a century – with more to come.

“Strong partnership working with SEPA and other stakeholders is key to successfully delivering our shared goals to protect and enhance our environment and reduce flood risk.

“We are delighted that the investment so far,  has helped improve river water quality in the River Clyde and its tributaries. We are converting our infrastructure into a modern, integrated and sustainable system that will continue to improve the environment and biodiversity on the Clyde in the years ahead, which is great news for the Glasgow area and Scotland in general.”


Information on River Basin Management Planning and on SEPA’s website.

Information on Scotland's River Basin Management Plan 2015-2027.

Information on Scottish Water’s investment programme.

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