The Water Framework Directive ( WFD) was introduced in 2000 to provide a comprehensive framework for protecting and improving the condition of the water environment across Europe. In Scotland, we have introduced an integrated legislative framework, via the Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003 ( WEWS) and the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011 ( CAR), to transpose the WFD and facilitate the delivery of our vision for Scotland's water environment.
Through CAR, SEPA is required to control activities which may have an impact on the water environment, including abstractions, impoundments, discharges and engineering works in and near freshwater. Controlled activities must be authorised before they can be undertaken. For activities posing the greatest risk to the water environment, authorisation is given in the form of a water use licence.
An application for a water use licence can take up to 4 months to determine. This is because, under normal circumstances, decisions on activities posing a significant risk must rightly be informed by a proportionate but appropriately comprehensive risk assessment. An activity likely to have a significant adverse impact on the water environment may also have a significant affect on the interests of other users of the water environment. Advertisement of applications for such activities allows SEPA to obtain information to help it to assess the risks to the interests of third parties. The advertising process can add up to 8 weeks to the standard 4-month licence determination period.
In emergencies, the normal CAR process would create unacceptable delays. We have therefore introduced further provisions in CAR 2011 to ensure sufficient flexibility to respond to the need for swift but temporary action in such circumstances.
This policy statement sets out how these provisions will be used to support the achievement of Ministers' objective of striking the right balance between the protection of the water environment and other important policy objectives when emergency action is needed. It supports the Government's resilience agenda, enabling swift and appropriate responses to incidents, protecting the Scottish public and environment from potentially damaging impacts.