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17th April 2024

Policy to Preparedness: Flood Policy and Community Engagement

Flooded Field - Photo Credit: Gordon Henderson


The findings of the report show that recent flood-related policies are beneficially interconnected at regional, Scottish and UK levels. The egalitarian approach evident within them is supportive of climate and social justice. However, while egalitarian policy approaches are the ideal when pursuing climate and social justice, such policies face a complex test when they are implemented amongst existing inequalities in society.  The research team found distribution of physical flood risk is not fair nor equal, nor are the social circumstances of many who live on low incomes with limited resources. Recognition of the diversity of circumstances, viewpoints and vunerabilities in Scotland is essential to build place-based sustainable community flood resilience. 



CREW Science Policy Fellowships

This project is part of CREW's Science Policy Fellowship workstream which intends to support evidence-based decisions by providing the opportunity for Scotland’s research community to advocate for critical science that addresses upcoming water-related policy, regulatory and/or industry needs. You can read more about CREW Science Policy Fellowships here.

CREW commissioned three Science Policy Fellowships which are aligned to, and support, the development of Scotland’s first Flood Resilience Strategy. Read more about the two other projects here:

Building Public Health Resilience to Fluvial Flooding in Scotland

Resilience to Fluvial Flooding: Knowns and Unknowns to Recommendations to Management

You can read more about other engagement activity, led by Sniffer working closely with Scottish Flood Forum and ClimatexChange, to support the development of Scotland's first Flood Resileince Strategy here.

Project Outputs

CD2024_01 Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water supplies: A review of source, pathway, and fate for selected compounds

Photo credit: Aimee Holton. Water droplets into water

CREW Code: CD2024_01

Type of project: Call Down

Overview: This c.3-month Call Down project aims to review available information regarding potential sources, fate, transport and additional areas of risk for PFAS compounds. This is to support understanding of which compounds not currently named in the recast Drinking Water Directive regulations may be in Scottish drinking water sources. It builds on the findings and recommendations of CRW2022_01 Developing risk assessment approaches for PFAS and watch list parameters under the recast Drinking Water Directive.

Project Status: In progress.










Project Objectives

Contact CREW Staff

CRW2023_15 Review of monitoring approaches to deliver healthy ecosystems for Scotland’s protected fresh waters and wetlands

A pond with trees and grass. Photo credit Irene Fortune.

CREW Code: CRW2023_15

Type of project: Capacity Building

Overview: NatureScot is reforming the current approach to Site Condition Monitoring for protected areas to support the delivery of healthy ecosystems.  This new approach will better inform practical conservation by transitioning to site-based assessments, prioritise indicators that inform management, and incorporate the wider landscape thus allowing NatureScot to identify and address pressures at appropriate scales.

Aim: The overall aim of this project is to review and make recommendations on what metrics to measure to support the effective delivery of ecosystem health for Scotland’s protected fresh waters and wetlands. This project builds on the findings and recommendations of a previous CREW study: CRW2019_03 Moderating extremes in water availability – a review of the role of functioning wetlands which provided a compilation of existing knowledge regarding wetland functions.

Project Status: Calls for proposals now closed


































Project Objectives

Contact CREW Staff
17th June 2024

Future Predictions of Water Scarcity in Scotland: Impacts to Distilleries and Agricultural Abstractors

River Feshie near Aviemore - Photo Credit: Paul Glendell

Scotland’s climate is changing, and we expect to see further changes in seasonal precipitation patterns that may increase the frequency and severity of water scarcity conditions, including droughts. Drought is a prolonged period of abnormally low rainfall, leading to water scarcity and environmental stress (formally defined in Scotland as when river water levels are less than 5% of their normal flows, for more than 30 days). Overall, droughts are predicted to increase particularly in the eastern parts of Scotland. These changes are likely to affect water users in these regions, particularly agriculture (livestock, arable and horticulture) and the distilling sector.

The aim of this project was to provide summaries of the future predictions of water scarcity in Scotland and the impacts this may have, tailored to three groups of abstractors: crop producers, livestock producers and distilleries.  The project summarised evidence on changes to the availability of surface waters and groundwaters for abstraction; as well as changes to climatic water balance for rainfed farming systems. This evidence was then put in the context of how the water resources are being used by the three groups and how future water scarcity may impact the sector.

The evidence review highlighted that there is likely to be overall deficit in climate-water balance during the summer months in eastern Scotland, with some uncertainty about how the shoulder months of April and September will be affected; that the number and duration of surface water drought events are likely to double by the middle of the century; and that there are questions about the resilience of groundwater supplies, particularly in areas with low storage and decreasing potential recharge.  Overall, our farmers and distillers focus group participants were aware of water scarcity as a business risk. The irrigated crop sector and the distillery sector have invested in technological solutions, such as efficient irrigation systems, offline irrigation lagoons and thermal vapour compressing, whereas the rainfed farming systems identified fewer adaptation options. Several barriers to wider uptake of adaptation options were identified. Recommendations are provided, including the need for increased data on actual water used by abstractors, alongside expanding the monitoring and analysis of groundwater resources, to improve our understanding of the different dimensions of water scarcity; and ways to overcome barriers to uptake of the available adaptation responses.

Previous Project Page

Project Outputs

15th April 2024

Climate Crisis: informing Scotland’s actionable mitigation and adaptation response to water scarcity

Loch water reflection - Photo credit: Sarah Halliday

Scotland’s climate is changing at a rate unprecedented in human history. We are becoming exposed to climate related risks, such as water scarcity, that were not considered significant in the past and have not been planned for. The first phase in addressing this shift in risk has been to develop early warning and emergency measures to mitigate the impacts of exceptional events such as the 2018 European drought and its impact in Scotland. However, as we better understand the projected increasing severity and frequency of dry periods and our potential future demands on water supply, an adaptation gap has become evident that risks the security of what has, up until now, been seen as a dependable, high-quality water supply.

In this project the research team review past, present and future changes in water scarcity risk in Scotland. Through engagement with a broad spectrum of stakeholders in the water sector and government agencies the research team asked the questions: 1) What is currently being done to reduce the likelihood and severity of water scarcity? 2) How effective are these strategies now and will they still work under a changing climate future? 3) What additional actions do we need to take to address water scarcity in the future?

In answering these questions, the research team highlight the current challenges in addressing the water scarcity risk and provide recommendations on how to address them. These recommendations are presented as programme of work over the short and long term. To take it forward, the research team propose a governance structure formed of representatives from the relevant agencies and in partnership with businesses and communities. The programme is a prioritised set of recommended actions that would contribute to the delivery of a system of national water resource planning, supported by improved levels of water stewardship from across society. The planning will be informed by better access to water supply and demand information and a programme of research that addresses the evidence gaps and improves knowledge exchange across the water sector.

Previous project page

This project is one of a cluster of  CREW water scarcity projects in 2023-2024. For more information please see their project pages:

Project Outputs

CRW2022_07 Mitigation and adaption response to water scarcity - Project Story Map

20th March 2024

Mitigating climate change impacts on the water quality of Scottish standing waters

Scottish Loch - Photo Credit Linda May

There is a policy focus at national and international levels on mitigating climate change impacts by reducing carbon emissions and increasing carbon sequestration. However, even if we can slow climate change down, we cannot prevent or reverse it. So, alternative approaches must be used to lessen its effects. These include adaptive interventions that increase the resilience, and reduce the vulnerability, of people and nature to weather extremes and other climate change impacts.

Scottish standing waters are already warming at an alarming rate and are projected to continue warming into the future. This is likely to cause more frequent and/or more intense algal blooms unless measures to reduce their growth are put in place. Since we cannot cool our water bodies, and increasing their flushing rates is unlikely to be a widely applicable solution, this study explored other options for reducing the likelihood of algal blooms worsening under climate change. The main aim of this study was to inform fit for purpose strategies for mitigating the effects of climate change on Scottish standing waters.

Previous project page

Project Outputs

CRW2022_03 Standing Waters (Phase 2) - Project Video

13th March 2024

Developing risk assessment approaches for PFAS and watch list parameters under the recast Drinking Water Directive

Glass of water with flowing stream in background

The research project conducted assessments of the potential presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), 17β-estradiol, and nonylphenol for drinking water supply sources in Scotland, to identify high risk areas and enable prioritisation of monitoring and additional knowledge generation.

PFAS, a class of synthetic chemicals produced since the 1940s, are persistent, toxic and bioaccumulative and have been linked to detrimental impacts on childhood development, cancers, and immune system disorders. Nonylphenol and 17β-estradiol are endocrine-disrupting chemicals connected to cancer, reduced fertility and obesity. Due to increasing awareness of the potential occurrence of these substances in the environment, a new standard for PFAS was introduced for Scottish drinking water in January 2023, and Scottish Water commenced a nationwide risk based sampling programme at that time. 17β-estradiol and nonylphenol were added to an EU drinking water watchlist, so Scottish Water will need to monitor for their presence in their supplies when the watch list is adopted in Scotland.


The research project estimated which supplies had the highest potential likelihood of detecting the substances in the raw (pre-treated) water. The assessments identified higher likelihood of PFAS and nonylphenol presence in those areas with higher population and industry densities (predominantly the central belt and east of Scotland), whereas areas with the highest likelihood of 17β-estradiol presence were those under more intensive agricultural use (predominantly the northeast and south of Scotland). Having identified these areas now allows further refinement of monitoring programmes to aid our understanding of the potential presence of the substances, their sources and possible treatment requirements. This in turn will inform best strategies and actions to reduce concentrations of the contaminants if necessary, not only in drinking water, but also in the environment.

NB - Figure 3.4 was updated on 18/03/2024.

Project page


CRW2023_10 Review of psychoactive substances wastewater monitoring approaches and recommendations for the feasibility of applying different approaches in Scotland.

Sewage treatment plant. Unaltered photograph courtesy of: 2) By Paul McIlroy, CC BY-SA 2.0,


CREW Code: CRW2023_10

Type of project: Capacity Building

Overview:  The overall aim of this project is to establish the feasibility and benefits of using the current Scottish Water influent monitoring infrastructure to also monitor psychoactive substances and their metabolites in Scotland and, particularly, how it would benefit existing early warning reporting systems and other intelligence gathering (such as, but not restricted to, RADAR).

Project Status: Call for proposals closed.










Project Objectives

Contact CREW Staff

Who can request CREW work?

CREW projects originate from our water policy, regulatory and industry partners as need arises. The organisations that can request work through CREW are: Scottish Government, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Drinking Water Quality Regulator, Scottish Water, NatureScot, Scottish Canals, Food Standards Scotland, Zero Waste Scotland, Consumer Scotland.

Water splash and people connecting

The Hydro Nation International Centre's World Water Day event, 'Leveraging water for a just transition' is fast approaching.

On 22nd March 2024, this hybrid event with live streaming will take place at Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh.

The programme for the event and Eventbrite link to register are available here: 2024 | Hydronation International Centre (


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