Protected waters

Certain types of water need special protection, and these are all described in the river basin management plans. Set out below are the measures we have put in place for safely managing:

Drinking water protected areas

Drinking water quality in Scotland is regulated by the Drinking Water Quality Regulator (DWQR), which is responsible for monitoring water quality and enforcing regulations on behalf of Scottish Ministers. We provide technical and logistical support. Find out more on the water industry governance page or on the DWQR website.

The Water Environment (Drinking Water Protected Areas) (Scotland) Order 2013 determined the areas that need protecting as sources of drinking water.

We have published maps showing the drinking water protected areas in Scotland.

Bathing waters

Scottish ministers determine the length of the bathing season and designate bathing waters where they expect a large number of people to bathe. These areas of water are given special protection to ensure they are safe for people to swim in during the bathing season, which normally runs from 1 June to 15 September.

Applications for new bathing water designations are administered by SEPA and should be submitted before the end of March each year. Further information on submitting an application is available on SEPA’s website.

The Bathing Water Review Panel, a multi-stakeholder group chaired by SEPA, meets after the bathing water season each year. It considers any new bathing water designation applications, along with any changes considered appropriate to the current designated Bathing Waters list and bathing water season. It makes recommendations to Scottish Ministers prior to the next Bathing Waters season.

Any comments on the establishment, review or revision of the list of bathing waters and the length of the bathing season should be sent to

Further information on bathing waters:

Shellfish water protected areas

Clean water is vital in areas where shellfish are produced to ensure a good quality product which is safe for human consumption.

We have produced the following:

Scotland RBD

There are 84 shellfish water protected areas in the Scotland River Basin District (RBD), which we identified in the 2013 shellfish water protected areas designation order. We have produced directions for assessing shellfish water protected areas in the Scotland RBD.

Solway Tweed RBD

There is one shellfish water protected area in the Solway Tweed RBD, which we identified in the 2016 shellfish water protected areas designation order. We have produced directions for assessing shellfish water protected areas in the Solway Tweed RBD.

Waters affected by agricultural pollution

Agricultural activity can pollute water with nitrates, which are harmful to both humans and the environment. Areas where groundwaters have nitrate concentrations of more than 50mg/l, or are thought to be at risk of nitrate contamination, are known as Nitrate Vulnerable Zones.

We have established action programmes to reduce and prevent further nitrate contamination.

The Farming and Water Scotland website provides guidance for farmers on reducing pollution risk.

Waters sensitive to sewage discharges

In accordance with the Urban Waste Water Treatment (Scotland) Regulations 1994 (amended by the Urban Waste Water Treatment (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2003), we fund SEPA to review environmental waters every four years to determine whether they are sensitive to the effects of sewage discharges.

If an area is designated as sensitive, we will take steps to remove nutrients at relevant sewage plants within that area. We have produced maps of all water bodies designated as sensitive areas.

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