Reservoir safety

In accordance with the Reservoirs (Scotland) Act 2011, the safety of reservoirs in Scotland is monitored, maintained and ensured by the combined work of:

The Act represents a significant change in the way reservoirs are regulated. It includes measures to ensure increased protection to the public from the risk of flooding from reservoirs, while also ensuring that reservoir owners are fairly treated through a proportionate system.

The Act is being implemented in a phased approach, with reservoirs over 25,000m3 being brought under the new regime from 1 April 2016, and smaller reservoirs between 10,000m3 and 25,000m3 being brought under at a later date.

We have published a full list of reservoirs legislation. Our archive provides historic information on reservoir legislation and regulation.

Enforcement authority

The enforcement authority in Scotland is the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). The legislation requires all reservoirs covered by the act to be included on a register held by SEPA. SEPA's website hosts a copy of the reservoirs register.

SEPA classifies reservoirs as high, medium or low risk according to whether they pose a threat to human life, property or critical infrastructure if the reservoir was to fail.

The level of risk determines the level of regulation, and is re-assessed every six years in accordance with the Reservoirs (Scotland) Act 2011.

Reservoir engineers

Reservoir engineers supervise reservoirs that pose a risk to the public during construction and their operating life by undertaking regular inspections, completing reports for the enforcement authority, and advising on safety measures.

We are responsible for appointing reservoir engineers who operate only in Scotland, while DEFRA appoint those who also operate in England and/or Wales.

To work as a reservoir engineer in Scotland you must be a member of one of the following panels:

The All Reservoirs (Scotland) Panel

Comprises civil engineers qualified to design and supervise the construction and alteration of all reservoirs to which the Reservoirs (Scotland) Act 2011 applies, as well as to inspect, supervise, and report on them once established. They can also act as supervising engineers for all reservoirs to which the Act applies.

The Non-Impounding Reservoirs (Scotland) Panel

Comprises civil engineers qualified for all the same tasks as above, but for non-impounding reservoirs only.

The Service Reservoirs (Scotland) Panel

Comprises civil engineers qualified for all the same tasks as above, but for service reservoirs only.

The Supervising Engineers (Scotland) Panel

Comprises civil engineers qualified to act as supervising engineers for all reservoirs to which the 2011 Act applies.

We maintain member lists for the Scottish reservoir engineers panels.

Apply to be a reservoir engineer in Scotland, England and Wales

Engineers who wish to operate in Scotland as well as England and/or Wales need to apply for membership to both the relevant Scottish panel as well as the Reservoirs Act 1975 panels which cover England and Wales.

They need to fill in this joint application form and send it with their application to the UK Government's Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Find more reservoirs information on gov.uk and on the Institution of Civil Engineers website.

Apply to be a reservoir engineer in Scotland only

Engineers who wish to operate in Scotland only must apply to join one of the Scottish panels by completing the reservoir engineer panels: application form. This form, along with their application, any supporting information and the specified fee, must be returned to us at the address specified on the form.

Applications for reappointment should be sent at least eight months before the current appointment's expiry date to allow enough time for processing.

Reservoir managers

The ultimate responsibility for the safety of a reservoir lies with its manager. This is the person who controls or operates the reservoir and its dam, or, if no such person exists, the owner of the reservoir.

A controlled reservoir may be managed by one or more reservoir managers. Their roles are as follows:

  • the reservoir manager is responsible for monitoring the reservoir day-to-day, in line with the recommendations made by the Inspecting or the Supervising Engineer
  • a manager of a high or medium-risk reservoir must ensure it is being supervised by a Supervising Engineer at all times
  • a manager of a high-risk reservoir is also required to commission an Inspecting Engineer to inspect the reservoir at least every 10 years
  • a manager of a medium-risk reservoir is only required to commission an Inspecting Engineer to inspect the reservoir when recommended by the Inspecting Engineer
  • managers of low-risk reservoirs are not required to commission a Supervising or Inspecting Engineer

SEPA's website provides further information on the responsibilities of reservoir managers.