Water, wastewater and drainage policy: consultation

This consultation seeks your views on our proposed principles and considerations in developing policy for the future of the water industry in Scotland in response to the climate emergency.

2. Water resource planning

Water is a precious resource – it is essential for life. It supports our lives, agriculture and businesses (including distilleries and manufacturing etc.) and supports our environment. As the climate gets warmer, the demand for water will grow. We will need to consider the water needed to water crops to maintain food supplies, or make different choices about the crops we grow, support tourism and to support new lower carbon industry, such as hydrogen production. At the same time, we must ensure we have enough water to provide drinking water supplies which are essential for public health and to protect Scotland’s environment. We need to be able to make choices as to whether we need to store more water or be more efficient with the water we have.

Scotland has been fortunate. Apart from the occasional prolonged period of dry weather, there has in the past been enough water to enable those that take water directly from our rivers and lochs to access what they want. However, in recent years Scotland has seen the impacts of climate change, as differing parts of Scotland have seen prolonged dry weather and there has not been an unlimited supply of water. In 2022 and 2023 we have seen farms and businesses have water restrictions placed upon them to reduce their usage and protect water resources. Increased pressure on these resources and changing availability due to climate change means we need to understand what our water resources are now and what will be available in the future. Do we need to store more, or use less? How do we share fairly what water is available? What do we need to leave in rivers to ensure our natural environment can flourish? How do we ensure a focus on managing demand as well as understanding what sources of supply we may need? We need to understand the position today as well as make plans for the future.

There is currently no legal requirement for us to plan for our water resources. As a consequence, there is a limited understanding of changing needs, future demands and continued availability of water. To protect the future of Scotland’s environment and economy, this needs to change. We need to understand what we need to do to ensure that we have a balance between what supply is needed to meet the demands placed upon our water resources, where those demands are and have a system for allocating it fairly. Planning for our water resources can enable us to respond better in times when there are greater pressures, such as in times of warmer, drier weather. Public bodies, Non-Governmental Organisations, farmers, energy companies, businesses and communities all need to play a role in creating these plans.


1. Do you agree that Scotland needs to set out a plan to manage our water resources, for now and into the future?

  • Yes/No

2.1 Catchment management

Your water for drinking originates in the environment from rainwater and collects underground, in rivers and in reservoirs[2]. It can travel long distances through farms, cities and towns before it reaches the water treatment works and then your tap. Throughout its journey, the quality of the water may be affected by pollution. Pollution can be caused by human and natural factors, like agricultural and urban runoff or natural erosion. These pollutants then need to be removed at a treatment works to deliver the high standard of water we expect.

The impacts of climate change and changes in the way that we use our land can increase the risks to water quality and water availability. This makes water more difficult and expensive to treat so that it is safe to drink. It also increases the carbon costs. To reduce the need for expensive and carbon-hungry treatment, we need to make sure that catchments are monitored and managed at a national level. This national view will highlight key areas of concern and will help to minimise the risk of new and existing pollutants reaching drinking water sources. It will put greater focus on the activity around catchments and will promote greater cross sector working.


2. To what extent do you agree that taking a national view of catchment risks will help better protect drinking water sources from pollutants?

  • Strongly agree
  • Agree
  • Neither agree nor disagree
  • Disagree
  • Strongly disagree


Email: waterindustry@gov.scot

Back to top