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18th October 2022

CREW Programme Report 2016-2022

Programme Report 2016-2022 Cover photographs courtesy of: Left: James Hutton Institute Centre: James Hutton Institute Right: Digestors by Richard Webb, CC BY-SA 2.0,

CREW is pleased to present this Programme Report (2016-2022) for the Centre of Expertise for Waters.

Water is at the heart of Scottish life - socially, environmentally, and in economic terms as a sector in its own right, and as a critical resource in Scotland's manufacturing, agriculture, food and drink, tourism and energy sectors. Scotland's Hydro Nation agenda supports the Scottish Government's vision as a world leader in the sustainable management of water. To deliver that vision we must ensure that the respected knowledge generated by research underpins our future.  This ambition is central to CREW's values. Our underlying ethos has, and will continue to be, to deliver the right information to the right people at the right time, and in the right way.

Over the last six years, and as highlighted in this Programme Report, CREW has delivered more than 105 projects in the process of meeting its objectives of supporting policy and practice, and in delivering relevant outputs. We aim to achieve this through our core principles of; co-construction, communicability, trustworthiness, timeliness, supporting an inter-disciplinary vision, and focusing on impact, outcome and “value”.  There are many examples of CREW's work throughout this report, and on behalf of the team and all research partners, we are proud to highlight what has been achieved, and we hope you find it of interest.


9th October 2022

CREW 2022-2027

Welcome to CREW's new Programme 2022-2027!

The Centre of Expertise for Waters began a new Programme of activities on 1st April for 2022-2027. 

We would like to thank everyone who contributed to the previous Programme, 2016-2021, and we look forward to working with you all and new contributors in the coming days, months and years. 


CREW will soon be announcing calls for proposals for new projects.  The calls will be hosted on the CREW website.  

Follow us on social media to find out more about our work, recent publications and upcoming opportunities to work with us: @CREW_waters and @HNICScotland.

Changes and growth of CREW and the Hydro Nation International Centre

Bob Ferrier, Director of CREW and the Hydro Nation International Centre retired in September 2022 following 37 years of service at the James Hutton Institute. Bob contributed widely across Institute activities as a respected member of the Executive team and Director of the Centre of Expertise for Waters (CREW) based at the Hydro Nation International Centre. He held an Honorary Chair in the School of Social Sciences at the University of Dundee, Scotland, and is a member of the Scottish Science Advisory Council.

Professor Colin Campbell said “We are grateful to Bob for his leadership, his hard work and the ideas he contributed to the success of the James Hutton Institute and wish him well in retirement. His legacy will be Hydro Nation International Centre and the portfolio of world leading water-related activities that sit within the Centre.”

Dr Rachel Helliwell, who has managed the Centre of Expertise for Waters (CREW) for the past 3 years will take on the role of Director of the Hydro Nation International Centre and CREW. She has 27 years of research and management experience in integrated sustainable water research and during that time has enjoyed working at the science:policy interface.

Further changes to the HNIC/CREW teams include the appointment of Dr Nikki Dodd to Deputy CREW Manager and the recruitment of Rebekah Burman as a CREW Project Manager. Nikki brings significant experience to the role having been a CREW Project Manager since 2016. Rebekah joins the team from NHS Orkney where she managed projects with environmental and health streams, including promoting the utilisation of blue and green spaces for health and wellbeing benefits.

Within the HNIC, Dr Maricela Blair, a former Hydro Nation Scholar, joined the team in September as a Hydro Nation Policy Officer drawing on her experiences from her PhD and working as an Analyst / Adviser for Science and Technology Institute in Honduras.

HNIC/CREW are expanding the team and are soon to be joined by a further CREW project Manager, Impact Officer and International Development Officer.


Policy: Water Framework Directive, Drinking Water Directive, Water, Wastewater and Drainage

Science: drinking water, waste water, human & environmental health, epidemiology and contaminants.


CREW's Water Quality and Health theme focusses on providing high quality science knowledge regarding drinking water, wastewater, human & environmental health, epidemiology, and contaminants. 


The projects undertaken within this theme inform policy and regulation areas including Drinking Water Directive review, Drinking Water Supplies, and Public Health.

Improved understanding of the interrelationships (e.g., sources, distribution, and risks) between water quality and human/environmental health will lead to better informed policy decisions.


Recent research within this thematic area includes:

- A capacity building project to inform, prioritise, and coordinate actionable monitoring and policy-based approaches to identify, assess, and mitigate risks from substances of increasing concern to Scotland’s water environment. Using a Substance Mapping approach, including literature review, an expert survey and a knowledge sharing workshop, the project found that based on evidence encountered, no CIC groups can be discounted for Scotland and significant data gaps exist on sources, pathways, exposure routes, hazard and risk.

- A capacity building project developing risk assessment approaches for parameters in the recast Drinking Water Directive, to be incorporated into legislation in 2023. This project delivered timely knowledge on monitoring and risk assessment approaches for watchlist contaminants in drinking water supplies in Scotland.

Coming soon: A follow-on Call Down project will synthesise available evidence around potential sources, pathways, and fate of PFAS not currently named in the recast Drinking Water regulations that may be found in Scottish drinking water sources. 

30th June 2022

IMPRESS: Approaches to IMProve flood and drought forecasting and warning in catchments influenced by REServoirS

Approaches to IMProve flood and drought forecasting and warning in catchments influenced by REServoirS (IMPRESS) Report Front Cover Cover photographs courtesy of: Mike Cranston (Scottish Environment Protection Agency).  All taken at the Castlehill Reservoir on the River Devon.

IMPRESS investigated improved methods for forecasting of floods and droughts where these are influenced by reservoir operations. A strong capability to forecast sub-hourly river flows a week ahead for flood warning/guidance purposes has been developed by SEPA, using hydrological and hydraulic models of rivers in combination with weather model predictions of precipitation. However, the effect of reservoir operation is not well represented and this can impact adversely on the quality of flow forecasts at locations downstream of reservoirs.

Reservoir operators have developed their own procedures for managing reservoirs to meet often a primary purpose of public water supply (Scottish Water) or hydropower generation (e.g. SSE Renewables, Drax). Longer time-horizons (weeks, months, a year or more) are of greater importance to these reservoir operators. SEPA, as a water resource regulator, also wishes to extend its forecasting capability to longer lead-times and drought flows. Both SEPA and the reservoir operators have developed monitoring, modelling and forecasting capabilities aligned to their respective priorities. The IMPRESS project has identified clear benefits in sharing and jointly developing some of these capabilities at times of both flood and drought that are in the public good.

IMPRESS undertook a review of current practice, identified possible improved approaches, and made recommendations for realising benefits through partnership working and future joint programmes of work.

The research suggested the following priority activities: (i) developing a tailored reservoir routing module (with outlet structures and control rules) to work within existing modelling frameworks, (ii) formulating improved procedures for modelling catchments (across the full range of flows) with ungauged areas and influenced by reservoirs, (iii) investigating the water balance of reservoirs, supported by case studies, with benefits to drought planning for water and hydropower supply, (iv) making better use of longer (weeks to seasons) meteorological predictions in reservoir operation and drought forecasting, accounting for their uncertainty, (v) sharing of information on reservoir geometry, operation and monitoring, along with developments in river flow forecasting capability over time-horizons of hours, weeks and months.

A Road Map of activities with a 10-year vision is proposed, guided by a Reservoir Working Group and Partnership Days.

20th May 2022

Understanding the social factors influencing resilience to drought exposure in Scotland

Social factors influencing resilience to drought exposure in Scotland- Photographs courtesy of: Carol Taylor, The James Hutton Institute. Julian Scot and CREW Stock images.

Climate change poses an increasing risk of drought hazards in Scotland, with those depending on Private Water Supplies particularly exposed to water scarcity. Underlying social circumstances need to be acknowledged in drought resilience policy. This project was a CREW policy fellowship aimed to improve the understanding of the social factors influencing resilience to drought exposure in Scotland in order to inform Scottish water policy. For that, the CREW policy fellows undertook a systematic international literature review on the personal, social, environmental, and institutional conversion factors that interact to either enhance or reduce people’s vulnerability to drought. Improving communication around drought hazards can help mitigate the impact these factors have on vulnerability. To help tailor communication and improve resilience for people on Private Water Supplies and more broadly for people across Scotland, these factors were aligned with three areas of drought communication: drought forecasting, drought preparedness, and drought response. A key challenge for Scotland is the national messaging around climate change impacts to water resources. Policy implications that would help improve public messaging to target these conversion factors were identified and policy recommendations made.

19th May 2022

Antimicrobial Resistance in Scotland’s Waters - Status and Solutions

Technologies for  Monitoring and Treatment  of Antimicrobial Resistance  in Water; Cover images courtesy of: Dr Lisa Avery (The James Hutton Institute) (bottom two photos); Top right photo from Flickr user Stefan  Schlautmann by CC license. Source: photostream/

This project evaluated the current status of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in Scotland’s waters and identified emerging monitoring approaches and potential technological solutions. The project involved a literature review and elicitation of expert opinion via the use of a questionnaire survey of academics, industry and regulatory stakeholders, and a follow-up workshop. Findings were synthesised into a policy briefing on “Technologies for monitoring and treatment of antimicrobial resistance in water” and a Policy Note on “Antimicrobial resistance in Scotland’s waters”.

There was no broad baseline understanding of the current AMR status of Scotland’s Waters. It was noted that the most cost-effective mechanism to generate a baseline understanding of AMR in Scotland’s waters was to build on existing sampling regimes and add in further sampling where specific water types weren’t already covered. A key outcome from both literature and expert elicitations was that there is little consistency of methods across studies and monitoring for AMR.  There was no consensus on the best detection method, but the most popular were cultivation methods and polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based methods, which are more easily accessible to researchers. Diversity of approaches is needed for research purposes. However, developing some guidelines to promote complementing these diverse approaches with some consistent ones (such as specified antimicrobial susceptibility testing on isolated E. coli and detection of a specified suite of antimicrobial resistance genes) would help provide comparable reporting and better understanding of AMR in a One-Health context. Additionally, agreement and guidance would support technology developers to improve and validate new approaches – while there is a lot of research on AMR detection methods the majority is clinical rather than environmental.

A Code of Practice would be useful to define different use cases and key measurement parameters along with validation approaches. Treatment technologies can remove AMR and cost-benefit analyses are needed to compare different treatment and mitigation strategies.


9th May 2022

A review of the risks to water resources in Scotland in response to climate change

Risks to water resources in Scotland in response to climate change; Cover photographs: Photographs courtesy of Dr Christopher J. White and Dr Douglas Bertram.

There is “irrefutable evidence” that the global climate is changing due to human activities. Even in ‘water rich’ countries like Scotland, these changes will have implications for the future of water resources. In Scotland, changes in rainfall patterns (spatially, temporally, and seasonally), together with the frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events including flood and drought, would result in significant challenges for Scotland’s key industries including the water sector. Such changes will impact drinking water supply, energy, agriculture, economic activity, and supply chains. Although there are inherent uncertainties surrounding the climate change projections for precipitation at the global scale, and what they mean regionally for Scotland, especially in the short-term (e.g., the next 30 years), water companies in Scotland increasingly need to compare and balance the evidence relating to changes to Scotland’s climate with their medium to long term planning decisions about the way water is stored, managed, and used.

This evidence report provides a review of studies that have assessed historical and future river flow and water availability changes in Scotland, as well as evidence on how climatic, hydrological, and other catchment-based processes may influence water resource availability in the future. Recommendations for future lines of research on effects of climate change on Scotland’s water resources are made.

Some of the key findings of the review include that river flows (outflows) have increased significantly over the 1961-2010 period in Scotland. While total annual outflows in the UK may not change significantly, future seasonal projections in the UK generally show seasonal reductions in spring and summer flows, a mixed pattern in autumn flows, and small increases in winter flows.

The review highlights that there is uncertainty regarding future frequency, duration and magnitude of both droughts and floods, including their timing and spatial extent, due to the different methodologies, indices and thresholds used and different types of hazards analysed in the studies reviewed. However, there is a consensus relating to an increase across all metrics (frequency, magnitude and duration) Scotland-wide in a warming climate. In terms of droughts, in Scotland, compound hydro-hotspots (droughts and floods) are projected to occur across eastern Scotland and the Highlands and Islands, including the Loch Ness and River Tay catchments in the far future. In the 2050s, irrigation demand, especially in summer, may rise due to an increase in temperatures alongside an increase in potential evapotranspiration.

26th April 2022

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

Cover photographs courtesy of:  Bottom-left image: Loch Achray in the Trossachs, Stirlingshire (Linda May, UK CEH);  Bottom-right image: Evidence of algal bloom on Loch Lubnaig in the Trossachs, Stirlingshire (Pauline Lang,  CREW); Top-right image: Gartmorn Dam in Clackmannanshire (Iain Gunn, UK CEH).

Scotland, like the rest of the world and UK as a whole, is facing an unprecedented climate change crisis. Amongst other impacts, this is affecting the quality of its standing waters such a lochs and reservoirs. The recent UK Climate Change Committee (2022) Report to Scottish Parliament makes clear that ‘Scotland lacks effective monitoring and evaluation systems meaning that changes in aspects of many climate-related risks are largely unknown’. There is now an urgent need for evidence to evaluate climate change impacts to inform fit for purpose mitigation/adaptation strategies that can be created and implemented in Scotland without delay. These will safeguard the integrity, biodiversity and sustainable use of the water environment, for people and for nature.

The overall aim of this project was to compile and assess the key evidence available to improve our understanding of climate change impacts on the water quality of Scottish standing waters at national, regional and local scales. The project focused on the interactions between climate change, the drivers of eutrophication problems and their impacts. We synthesised information from the literature, expert opinion and monitoring data, and used statistical analyses and visualisation (mainly mapping) combined with climate change scenario modelling to address six strategic water research questions.

The key findings were that:

  • Climate change is affecting the water quality of Scottish standing waters, specifically in relation to algal blooms, at multiple scales; mostly through increases in air temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns.
  • Increases in Scottish loch and reservoir temperatures are closely related to changes in air temperatures; rapid and extensive climate change-driven warming of these standing waters has already occurred in recent years and is expected to continue increasing.
  • Water temperature increases in many lochs and reservoirs have already been recorded; standing waters are projected to get warmer in the south and east of Scotland but this climate-related risk will spread further and reach all parts of Scotland by 2040.
  • Climate change will increase the risk of algal blooms developing in Scottish lochs and reservoirs – especially potentially harmful cyanobacteria.
  • Increases in algal blooms are often associated with a higher risk of potentially harmful toxins from cyanobacteria being released into the water; the likelihood of this occurring will increase with warmer temperatures and lower flushing rates.
  • Currently, all types of Scottish standing waters in all areas and locations are at high risk of climate change impacts.
  • Different types of lochs and reservoirs will respond differently to climate change impacts, with some more likely to develop water quality issues than others.
  • Water temperatures across different types of lochs and reservoirs are already warming in most places; this climate-driven trend is projected to further increase from south to north, with an exacerbated water temperature situation expanding to all parts of Scotland by 2040.
  • Climate change driven increases in water temperature and nutrient availability, and reductions in flushing rates, will increase the risk of water quality issues developing in Scottish lochs and reservoirs.
  • Scottish loch and reservoir sensitivity factors will affect the risk of water quality issues developing due to climate change impacts.
  • A whole system approach needs to be taken to mitigate future climate change impacts on standing waters.
  • An integrated catchment-based approach needs to be taken for setting water quality targets and planning interventions.

This project made key recommendations on changes needed to adapt water policy and existing monitoring networks as part of Scotland’s strategic and coordinated response to the climate crisis, as well as informing the research direction and future phases of work.

15th April 2022

International policy review on small sewage systems

Small sewage systems (SSS);  Cover photographs courtesy of: clockwise – Septic drain fields Hobrechtsfelde in LSG Buch Leonhard Lenz Lid of a rural septic tank beside an intersection, Slammerhogen, Lysekil Municipality, Sweden A septic tank being installed. Nonztp

Private small sewage systems, such as septic tanks, if not properly managed, can lead to a number of issues including pollution of the water environment and nuisance issues such as ponding and odour. These issues can have significant negative impacts on local communities and are difficult for these communities to address. Through an international review of approaches to small sewage systems, this project sought to understand how small private sewage systems are managed in other countries (with similar socio-economic profiles to Scotland) and the benefits and disbenefits associated with different approaches, with a view to informing approaches in Scotland.The review focused in particular on policies relating to the authorisation of new and existing small sewage systems and to the ongoing regulation both ‘historic’ and newly-installed systems.

This project sought to answer the following questions:

  • What is the policy baseline on small sewage systems (SSS) in Scotland?
  • How are small sewage systems (SSS) and discharges in other countries controlled?
  • Are there examples of approaches that encourage circular use of water, energy or nutrients?

The international review outlines the commonalities in SSS related issues across countries where SSS are used and draws a serie of key recommendations for policy and management. 

The guidance document provides information for developers to enable them to identify the most appropriate sewage systems for a specific use and instil confidence to planners and the regulator that such systems are fit for purpose and suitable for private operation over the long term.

31st March 2022

Better Buffer Design, Placement and Management

Image of good and bad buffers Cover image courtesy of: Marc Stutter and Mark Wilkinson (James Hutton Institute)

Can improved design concepts for riparian buffer measures and placement improve uptake and best practice in Scotland?

At this present time of developments in knowledge around diffuse pollution management, habitat restoration of river corridors and natural flood management, it is timely to make a synthesis of latest research with specific regard to understanding best practice in riparian zone management. So-called buffer zones alongside watercourses have potential to enhance ecosystem services in Scotland at a time of growing concerns for water quality, floods and droughts, bank-side habitat loss, condition of aquatic species and superimposed climate pressures. Yet, the majority of riparian management is basic and often mismatched to the specific needs and pressures of the site, for example not effectively targeting site-specific pollutant pathways by which runoff reaches watercourses. This CREW Policy Note examines how considering an enhanced range of designs, and targeting them to most suitable landscapes and pressures on the environment, can be achieved to improve multiple outcomes, including aspects of wider context for improving the uptake of enhanced riparian measures.


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