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14th October 2019

Quantifying rates of urban creep in Scotland

Paved over garden and map

Urban creep, the process of converting gardens and other vegetated areas (which help to soak up rain), to built-up surfaces (which are impervious), is an important factor affecting surface water flood risk.  This project aimed to answer the question, what are the typical rates of urban creep for selected urban areas in Scotland? The project developed a method to map urban creep and applied it to aerial photography for Edinburgh for 1990, 2005 and 2015. This allowed the first city-wide estimates of urban creep to be produced for Scotland. 

The report provides new quantitative data on the extent of urban creep in Edinburgh. One of the main project findings is that the average annual rate of urban creep in Edinburgh (around buildings and their gardens and grounds), between 1990 and 2015, is 6.44ha/year. This is equivalent to losing over eight football pitches of vegetated land per year.


11th October 2019

Prevention-led approach to the delivery of good drinking water quality

The aim of this project was to collate evidence related to prevention-led approaches within catchments, that was of relevance to Scotland and the benefits that they could bring to safeguarding drinking water supplies. This project sought views, nationally and from other EU (and international) countries, on how or what they have learnt from implementing a prevention-led approach. A project workshop focussed on two key pressures on Scottish drinking water supplies: organics (e.g. Dissolved Organic Carbon) and Taste and odour issues. The project outputs include information on the long listing exercise of potential cases which fitted the project criteria and detailed case study templates for the four short-listed cases.

12th September 2019

River Leven Catchment Initiative: Synthesis of current knowledge to help identify environmental management priorities to improve the water environment

Report front cover photos of River Leven

The main aim of the study was to review and synthesise current knowledge relating to the water environment within the River Leven catchment, including the condition of its rivers, lochs and groundwater.

The study addressed six main research questions.

  1. What is the current condition of all rivers, lochs and ground waters in the River Leven catchment, based on available information?
  2. What are the main pressures on the aquatic environment and the sources of those pressures?
  3. What are the environmental management priorities for improving the water environment?
  4. What is the baseline socio-economic condition of the River Leven catchment?
  5. What is the current condition of Loch Leven and its catchment, and how have improvements supported socio-economic development?
  6. What are the gaps in evidence and how can they be addressed?

All available water quality, hydromorphological and ecological data for the River Leven catchment were reviewed to identify water bodies that fail to meet Water Framework Directive (WFD) and conservation targets and could be improved through targeted management interventions. In addition, SIMD data were used to identify areas where high deprivation coincided with areas where water quality improvements are required to meet WFD and conservation objectives. The results are presented as maps and tables.

The output from this project provides a “first-pass” assessment of understanding of the River Leven catchment. It is not intended to be a comprehensive review of all of the data and information available. Draft environmental priorities are suggested for further consideration.


16th August 2019

Integrated Water Resource Management in Southern Malawi - Enhancement report for project expansion

Integrated Water Resource Management in Southern Malawi

Abertay University was commissioned by the Scottish Government through Hydro Nation International to explore ways to enhance the impact of Scottish Government support to the Government
of Malawi in the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6).  The project involved:

  • A review of the changing demand on water supplies, the impact of abstraction and the resilience and sustainability of  ground water in Malawi
  • Engagement with key stakeholders in water development in  Malawi to map and understand the complex interaction of   key water stakeholders 
  • The development a roadmap for scaling up Scottish Government support to meet the SDG6
  • The establishment of enhancement indicators to support planning and monitoring of a future roll-out of Scottish Government SDG activities across Malawi.

The review of knowledge of sustainable water resources in Malawi showed that there is a general reduction in available water resources resulting in significant lowering of surface and groundwater levels. Large-scale deforestation alongside reduced frequency of precipitation and higher ambient temperatures, and increased water demand associated with high population growth rate are believed to be some of the factors affecting the water levels. Hence, a holistic assessment of water supply and demand, i.e., integrated water resources management implementation, is needed to address medium to long-term water availability challenges.

The Stakeholder Map provides a representation of the water sector in Malawi showing stakeholders in relation to their contribution to key areas of governance and policy development, regulation, policy implementation and service provision.  The representation shows the diverse range of actors resulting in a complex interaction amongst stakeholders. It highlights the complexity of the planning and co-ordination processes and a need for enhanced coordination of activities in the sector. It was found that the nature of these processes limits the effectiveness of the planning process, which in turn restricts the effective operation of the water sector and the implementation of water development projects.    

The Critical Path will assist Scottish Government to identify and develop suitable interventions actions to support the water sector in Malawi. It identifies 5 key challenges for Malawi, namely; coordination and governance, water resource management, infrastructure, capacity building and monitoring and surveillance. The following key interventions have identified from the Critical Path to help address these challenges. 

  • Scottish Government (Role as a donor) - Support coordination efforts at Donor and NGO groups (Donor Group/Sector Working Group/WESNET).  
  • Scottish Government – Raising the profile of water and improving the governance and regulatory framework (Government – Government interaction).  
  • Scottish Government - Support local training provision and capacity building
  • Scottish Water International - Support asset assessment and management plans 
  • Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) - Catchment management and water resources management support.  

Enhancement Indicators have been established to aid planning and monitoring of future Scottish Government support activities in Malawi. Planned support activities can be designed using a delivery framework, the identified deliverables mapped to relevant indicators and a qualitative assessment made of the extent of their contributions of the activities to the indicators.  An appropriate sub-set of indicators can then be developed into metrics for ongoing monitoring.
Overall, this study provides tools and templates for assessing and developing effective interventions to address SDG6 needs in sub-Saharan African countries. 

21st May 2019

Risks to private water supplies from the presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)

PFAS and PWS - report cover

In Scotland and the EU, drinking water quality is regulated under the Council Directive 98/83/EC on the quality of water intended for human consumption (Drinking Water Directive-DWD). The revision of Annex II Part C to the  DWD in October 2015 focussed attention and limited resources to hazards of local concern, by requiring risk assessments at a supply zone scale as a basis for granting deviations from the list of parameters and frequencies subject to compliance monitoring. On the 1st of February 2018, the European Commission adopted a proposal for “recasting” the DWD to improve the quality of drinking water and provide greater access and information to citizens (EU Recommendation 2018). The proposal updates the list and standards (i.e. parametric values) of parameters to be monitored in line with latest recommendations of the World Health Organisation (WHO 2017).

The update includes chemicals, which are “new” to the Directive (EU Recommendation 2018), such as:

  • Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as a group.
  • Individual PFAS, e.g.: perfluorooctane sulfonic acid(PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS), perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), 8:2 flurotelomer alcohol (8:2 FTOH), 6:2 flurotelomer sulfonic acid (6:2 FTSA), perfluorobutyric acid (PFBA), perfluoropentanoic acid (PFPeA), perfluorohexanoic acid (PFHxA), perfluoroheptanoic acid (PFHpA), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), perfluorodecanoic acid (PFDA) and many more.

It is in this context that the present report was produced, addressing specifically the question:

Is there sufficient evidence for a high-level, national-scale assessment of the risk of detecting per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), such as perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanic acid (PFOA), in private water supplies (PWS)?

This project developed and implemented a risk-mapping method based on GIS tools, a review of available evidence on types of direct PFAS sources (i.e. related to manufacturing and use) to the water environment in Scotland, the UK and internationally, and on available PFAS data in Scotland. We showed that there is sufficient evidence to identify the locations of the majority of types of potential direct PFAS sources (hereafter reported as Potential PFAS Source Sites) in relation to the locations of all PWS. However, there is not sufficient open-access PFAS data to identify PFAS risk to PWS, i.e. whether and where PFAS concentrations are above the limit of detection (LOD) in drinking water sources to PWS. 

13th May 2019

Topo-bathymetric LiDAR in support of hydromorphological assessment, river restoration and flood risk management

CREW_topo-bathymetric LiDAR

This project evaluated topo-bathymetric LiDAR* data for the Rivers Dee and Garry by assessing performance in terms of:

  1. accuracy
  2. spatial resolution (point density)
  3. completeness of data and
  4. measurement of water depth.

The research also considered aspects relating to the quality of the provided datasets.  This report discusses the outcomes of these investigations and discusses factors influencing the 2 results. In addition, consideration is given to the potential
of topo-bathymetric LiDAR for classifying river typology, characterising hydromorphology and for supporting hydrodynamic modelling applications. These are criticalactivities in terms of water body condition assessment and management. The specific research questions that this report responds to are:  

  1. What are the strengths and limitations of topo-bathymetric LiDAR?
  2. Can this technology be used to improve river typology classification?
  3. Is it possible to derive detailed hydromorphological assessments?
  4. What is the potential for supporting 2D hydrodynamic modelling?

The main findings presented in this study can be summarized as follows:

  1. Topo-bathymetric LiDAR worked well for the River Dee where near-complete coverage of the river bed and good coverage of the water surface were achieved. This is likely due to good bed reflectance (gravel bed), combined with favourable water clarity. Due to very low flow conditions at the River Garry, performance was limited. This reinforces the need to evaluate likely success at potential sites prior to survey commission. 
  2. Topo-bathymetric LiDAR was found to offer a similar accuracy and precision to conventional topographic LiDAR, with a mean discrepancy of 0.04 m. The mean error of the water surface and bed points was between 0.04 and 0.07 m. 
  3. Topo-bathymetric LiDAR can provide good coverage of the river bed. For the River Dee, >95 % of the river bed was captured. The measured spatial resolution (point density) of bed points here is 15 points/m (single flightline). This is very similar to the spatial resolution of points over dry terrain. 
  4. Use of a single green laser produces relatively few returns from the water surface compared to the river bed, and the coverage of water surface returns is highly variable. Automated identification of water surface points is still very challenging, particularly for complex topography (e.g. River Garry), but is important in order to enable refraction correction. This is one of the current limiting aspects to a more automated and reliable workflow. 
  5. Depths shallower than approximately 8 cm cannot be measured because the signals from the water surface and river bed cannot be distinguished. This is a fundamental limitation of most commercial LiDAR systems. The Riegl VQ-880-G instrument used here has been designed with a very short laser pulse duration to minimise this effect.
  6. Topo-bathymetric LiDAR can contribute to various river management tasks including assessment of existing morphological typology and identification of hydromorphological features. While this was assessed here in a theoretical manner, it should be achievable through basic interrogation of LiDAR data in combination with expert hydromorphological input. More automated classification is feasible, but the effort required to reliably achieve this should not be underestimated.
  7. Topo-bathymetric LiDAR offers potential to enhance hydrodynamic models – e.g. for flood risk and mesohabitat modelling. Such models currently rely on field surveyed cross-section data (or approximations) to represent the channel. Provision of a combined channel and floodplain DEM will allow models to be parameterised with more reliable and continuous topographic information. 
  8. It is challenging to coordinate topo-bathymetric LiDAR surveys with ‘ideal’ flow conditions. Flows which are too too low will cause difficulties due to very shallow depths (e.g. River Garry). Conversely, higher flows may produce more turbulent conditions, which present challenges for capturing the water surface and possibly also the bed. ‘Average’ flow conditions (e.g. Q50 discharge) are most conducive to successful capture. 

*LiDAR is a surveying method which is often used to create high-resolution maps. It measures distance to a target by illuminating the target with pulsed laser light and measuring the reflected pulses with a sensor

17th April 2019

Key barriers to the adoption of innovation in water and wastewater service provision

The aim of the research was to identify barriers faced by private developers in the provision of innovations in water and wastewater services and to provide recommendations to enhance innovation in building and managing water and wastewater assets.  In order to achieve this aim, the project team carried out a detailed literature review using data and information sourced from academic and grey literature to identify barriers to adoption of innovation in water and wastewater service provision. This was
accompanied by collection and review of information obtained from key stakeholders and developers. Scottish Water guidance documents provided to developers were reviewed to identify where barriers to innovation may exist within the guidance. A survey of developers was carried out to gain direct feedback from private sector actors on barriers to innovation. A meeting with the Scottish Water asset vesting team was held to discuss any key issues. 

The literature finds that the drivers for the adoption of innovation in water and wastewater services are typically top town (regulator or utility drivers) or bottom up (community or consumer driven), whereas the developers or private sector supply chain typically takes a conservative approach to innovation. The reasons for this can be linked to the barriers to adoption of innovation in water and wastewater services, largely applicable across the construction sector. 

These barriers include:

  • Lack of internal/external financial resources to fund innovations
  • Lack of human resources to navigate innovation landscape, including certification and approvals processes
  • Lack of financial incentive to innovate, benefits are transferred to end user
  • Risk-averse behaviours, technology risks associated with water quality and public health
  • Procurement systems and regulatory environment that limit the market for innovations

The review has also identified recommendations for overcoming some of these key barriers in order to increase the uptake of innovation by private developers across the water sector. This includes encouraging organisations to strategically plan for innovation, building up internal  capacity, and leveraging support of external stakeholders  such as the utility. The utility will be a primary beneficiary of innovation particularly for technological solutions that extend the lifespan of infrastructure and improve quality of service provision. Therefore, utilities have a major role to play in supporting private sector actors to engage in innovation. This could be assisted by closer direct working in the innovation process, including greater knowledge sharing
and collaborative practices, or improved procurement systems that do not discourage innovation. Collaboration would also include the shared use of enabling technologies and sharing data (e.g. sensors and monitoring, use of visualisation and modelling techniques) that can help to reduce elements of risk within the innovation process. 

The drive to improve water and wastewater service provision in remote areas, provides challenges to both utilities and private sector developers. Literature indicates that there is a trend towards remunicipalisation of decentralised systems elsewhere, as a result of poor technology performance or service provision. Innovative approaches and technologies could assist in overcoming some of these issues, but to be effective will require a more collaborative approach. In prioritising innovation with regards to small water and wastewater systems, enabling factors can include prioritising the market (e.g. focus on unserviced areas), government or utility support to overcome financial barriers and help to align value and risk chains, involvement of the utility in technology selection within the planning framework, and engagement with communities to raise awareness and educate end users on the capabilities and risks of technology choices. Innovation champions across stakeholder groups can be important to driving change, providing support, and ensuring collaborative approaches are adopted.

12th April 2019

CREW Policy and Research Meeting on Flooding and Coastal Erosion

Twice a year, CREW brings together all relevant stakeholders of each of the four strategic work themes to discuss strategic as well as project-specific questions and to exchange on key aspects related to the theme, including recent scientific and policy developments. On 22nd March 2019 CREW held the biannual meeting for the Flooding and Coastal Erosion theme at Discovery Point in Dundee.
The purpose of the meeting was to share information on policy developments; to raise awareness of relevant, underpinning work with the Strategic Research Programme, and; to identify cross-
organisational priorities for CREW projects in 2019-20. The meeting was attended by representatives of the Scottish Government, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), Scottish Natural
Heritage (SNH), Biomathematics & Statistics Scotland (BioSS), Scotland’s Centre of Expertise on Climate Change (CXC) and the James Hutton Institute. The meeting started off with a roundtable discussion on policy developments and new CREW project ideas under the Flooding and Coastal Erosion theme. Updates were then provided for four current CREW projects.
Nikki Dodd from CREW presented the second-year findings of the impacts of the winter 2015/2016 flooding project on the communities of Ballater and Garioch on behalf of Lorna Philip (University of Aberdeen) and Mags Currie (James Hutton Institute). The report details recommendations made by affected individuals about insurance, personal wellbeing, resilience, and preparedness, improved communication between key institutions and by such institutions with the communities, and increased community resilience and sociality. The subsequent presentation provided an update on the work of Clare Rowland, Paul Scholefield, Aneurin O’Neil and James Miller (Centre for Ecology and Hydrology), in mapping the spatial extent and rate at which urban creep has affected the city of Edinburgh.  The team have identified ‘paving over’ of the equivalent of 9 football pitches of vegetated land per year between 1990 and 2015, giving way to parking space or housing developments.  This reduction in soil permeability exacerbates run-off which proves a heavy burden on urban drainage systems and, crucially, resilience to floods in an increasingly unpredictable and volatile climate.
Mark Wilkinson, Flood Risk Management Scientist at the James Hutton Institute, presented a project looking into public perceptions of Natural Flood Management at the community level. Results from initial focus group interviews in Menstries, Aviemore, and Peterculter indicate general support for Natural Flood Management (NFM), while also showing a sense that responsible agencies could engage more effectively and consistently around flood risk management. The final presentation described how evidence has been collected on prevention-led approaches within catchments designed to safeguard drinking water.  The project team identified a long list of cases internationally, reviewed current best practice in four selected cases and hosted a workshop with policy makers and representatives from the case sites. A final project report is currently being produced.
In the second part of the meeting, Marc Stutter from the James Hutton Institute gave a general update on the Strategic Research Programme [SRP] before BioSS and James Hutton Institute staff gave an overview of project status and recent developments in different work packages of the SRP. The first set of presentations focused on studies around water resources and flood risk management, while the second set discussed projects that deal with integrated and sustainable management of natural assets.
After these presentations, participants travelled to nearby Balruddery Farm to view and discuss water management and other measures adopted there.  Balruddery Farm is owned and managed by the James Hutton Institute and is the site of the Centre for Sustainable Cropping Platform. The farm platform is the first of its scale in the UK and provides an open research facility to test and demonstrate the economic, ecological and environmental trade-offs in sustainable land management over many decades.


2nd April 2019

Impacts of winter 2015/2016 flooding in and around Ballater and in the Garioch: Project Year 2 Summary

The purpose of the Assessing the Long-term Impacts of Flooding on People and Communities project is to better understand the long-term impacts of flooding upon people and communities and to consider what types of support and advice people and communities need at different stages of a long-term recovery. Over a 36 month period, the project is advancing our understanding of these long-term impacts, contributes to better flood risk management and makes suggestions as to how personal and community resilience may be supported and enhanced.

Two communities in Aberdeenshire affected by flooding in December 2015/ January 2016 are the focus of the research, one of which has repeatedly experienced flooding, one of which had little prior experience of flooding. The Ballater area, in upper Deeside, experienced severe flooding for the first time in many years in late December 2015, flooding that was largely unexpected and which had a widespread impact on the community. The Garioch area, specifically Port Elphinstone and Kintore, on the River Don, has experienced many flood events and was badly flooded in early January 2016. In Year One of the project three distinct yet complimentary data collections elements were undertaken: a Household Survey, conducted in both case study areas; a Business Survey, conducted in both case study areas; and interviews with residents and business owners/ managers in both case study areas, including interviews with those who were and were not directly affected by the Winter 2015/16 flooding. Findings from these three elements of data collection were presented, in three separate reports, to the project Steering Group in late 2017. A short report summarising Year One activities and key findings was published by CREW in early 2018. In Project Year Two a second round of interviews were conducted with householders and business owners/ managers in Ballater and Garioch. This report presents an overview of findings from the Project Year Two interviews. Another report will follow at the end of the 36 month project period.

You can find the first report of this project here

27th March 2019

World Water Day 2019

Image showing the Conference
Every year on 22nd of March, we celebrate World Water Day. This year, The Centre for Expertise on Waters (CREW) and the James Hutton Institute, with the financial support of the Scottish Government, and in partnership with the University of Stirling and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, organised an event around this year’s UN theme of “Leaving No one Behind”.

Discussions focused in particular on “Resilience to Drought and Low Flow Conditions in Scotland”. The event welcomed key stakeholder representatives, government officials, academics and emerging scientists from the Hydro Nation Scholars Programme.

The first part of the event focused on presentation from scientists, stakeholder groups and government representatives, discussing various issues and strategies around drought and drought management in the UK and Scotland in particular. With recent warnings from scientists and policy-makers that England would be suffering considerable effects from droughts within the next 25 years, and periodic droughts that affected Scotland over the last couple of years, there was a lot of discussion about this timely topic.  

Stephen Turner from the Wallingford Centre for Ecology & Hydrology presented on monitoring and early warning systems to support enhanced resilience to drought across the UK. A number of presentations focused on droughts in Scotland over recent years – Mark Hunter of Scottish Water discussed response strategies to ensure as little impact as possible on end users, while Rebecca Millar of Citizens Advice Scotland presented research outputs regarding end users of private water supplies and what could be done to improve resilience to drought and other climate change impacts on water scarcity and quality for private water supplies end users. Further, the impact of drought and low flow conditions on key water-dependent Scottish industries was discussed. Hamish Moir of cbec and Chris Conroy of the Ness Salmon Fishery Board presented the particular context of Salmon migration and nesting, and how Scottish salmon populations are threatened by rising water temperatures and low-level water flow, affecting the salmon’s ability to migrate, and sometimes bringing even lethal consequences. Creating and re-storing wetlands may be a key strategy to alleviate some of this risk to Scottish salmon, and simultaneously enhancing resilience to both droughts and floods. Paul Hammett, Water Specialist at the National Farmers Union presented on resilience and adaptation strategies introduced over recent years: In particular, the soil bank, and more recently, the water bank, allows farmers across a larger region to exchange soil/manure, or water, thereby reducing impacts of regional climate effects for farmers. Ronald Daalmans from Chivas Brothers shared insights into the particular challenges the Whisky industry faces in times of drought and low flow conditions.
After a final presentation by Scott Mcgrane of Fraser of Allander Institute on the future challenges of environmental change on water as an economic resource in Scotland, the participants split up into three discussion groups, focusing on three key topics at the policy-research nexus:

  1. Resilience planning and adaptation strategies
  2. Emerging issues for drought and low flow conditions and
  3. Enhanced monitoring through technical innovation and citizen science.

The results of these expert discussions will be published in a report in early summer. 

Closing remarks were given by Jon Rathjen, Head of the Water Industry Team at the Scottish Government, putting the day’s discussions into the context of a long-term vision for Scotland as a HydroNation, by not only continuing to develop innovative solutions to both drought and flooding in Scotland and internationally, but also by capitalising on this great resource that Scotland has in abundance. He alerted everyone present to not only focus on the specific remedies to specific problems, - but also to think of water, and Scotland’s expertise in managing waters, as the great potential that lies within for both Scottish industries and Scottish people, all the while ensuring the long-term sustainability and protection of the precious resource that is water.

A Short Report and the Full Report are available.


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