Assessing Scotland's water environment: use of environmental standards, condition limits and classification schemes

This document sets out how SEPA should implement the Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003, using Directions from 2014.

Section 4 Achievement of Protected Area Objectives

4.1 Overview

The river basin management planning process provides the framework for assessing whether we are achieving our objectives for 'protected areas'. These include areas designated under EU legislation or under the Shellfish Water Protected Areas Designation Order 2013 as requiring special protection. The areas include areas protected because they are important for recreational activities, such as bathing; because they support economically important shellfish species; or because they support habitats or species important for biodiversity conservation. Such designations are made by Ministers - current designations can be found under the Register of Protected Areas on SEPA's website.

Specific objectives and standards apply to protected areas. For some protected areas, the standards required to achieve their objectives are specified in the EU-legislation under which the areas were designated. For others, the standards required have been identified nationally. Information on where we are achieving the objectives and standards for our different protected areas is provided in the river basin management plans.

The process of assessing whether protected area standards and objectives are being achieved is a separate process to water body classification and made specifically in relation to any objectives a water body might have as a protected area. The different types of protected areas and the associated assessment requirements are summarised in the table below.

Different types of protected areas and their associated assessment requirements
Protected Area Legislation under which designated Assessment required
Areas designated for the abstraction of water used or intended to be used for human consumption Waters designated as used or intended to be used for human consumption under the Water Framework Directive Whether achieving, or failing to achieve, the objective as described in Section 4.2 below
Areas designated for the protection of economically important shellfish species Shellfish Water Protected Areas designated under the 2013 Order Whether achieving, or failing to achieve, the objectives established in accordance with the 2013 regulations.
Bodies of water designated as recreational waters Waters designated under the Revised Bathing Water Directives (2006/7/ EC & 76/160/ EEC) Whether complying, or failing to comply, with the requirements of the relevant Directive
Nutrient-sensitive areas Waters identified as polluted waters under the Nitrates Directive (91/676/ EEC) or as sensitive areas under the Urban Waste Water Treatment (91/271/ EEC) Whether complying, or failing to comply, with the requirements of the relevant Directive
Areas designated for the protection of habitats or species where the maintenance or improvement of the status of water is an important factor in their protection Relevant Natura 2000 sites designated under the Habitats Directive (92/43/ EEC) or the Birds Directive (79/409/ EEC) Whether meeting or failing to meet the water status-related needs of the site's biodiversity conservation objectives

4.2 Drinking water protected areas

Drinking water protected areas and their objectives were established specifically by the WFD. Consequently, we need to set out how SEPA is expected to assess whether or not the objectives for these areas are being achieved.

Drinking water protected areas are surface water bodies or groundwater bodies with totalled abstractions used or intended to be used for human consumption of greater than 10 cubic metres per day on average, or serving more than 50 people.

Drinking water protected areas have to comply with the requirements of Article 7 of the Water Framework Directive ( WFD). Such areas will fail to meet these requirements if deterioration in their quality has compromised any supply or combination of supplies providing 10 cubic metres per day on average, or serving more than 50 people. In making that assessment SEPA will take into account the drinking water quality standards set out in the Drinking Water Directive.

A supply for human consumption would be compromised if, for example, an alternative source had to be used; the water blended with that from another source; additional treatment installed; or the operating demands placed on the existing water treatment system significantly increased. Deterioration of the microbiological or chemical quality of a drinking water protected area may be responsible for a supply being compromised.

The status of a body of groundwater that is also a drinking water protected area cannot be classed as good unless the body is achieving its drinking water protected area objective.

For the first river basin management plan, the data available to SEPA for the purpose of undertaking the assessments described principally related to large public water supplies. As the available data increases, particularly that for private water supplies, we expect SEPA to incorporate this into its assessment of drinking water protected areas.

These matters are set out in the 2014 Status Directions.


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