Skip to content
22nd March 2019

Scotland’s contribution to international water policy and research (Report)

On World Water Day in 2018, we held a workshop exploring Scotland’s contribution to international water policy development and research needs. This workshop brought together Scottish academics, practitioners and policy makers to share experiences in promoting the UN Sustainable Development Goal: “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” (SDG 6).

Barriers to implementation and recommendations to enable and accelerate progress towards achieving SDG 6 were discussed in four thematic breakout sessions:

  1. Waste Water Treatment Systems
  2. Water Resources Water Quality and Quality
  3. Drinking Water Supply and Technologies
  4. Future water challenges facing water 

Common high level outcomes and recommendations were identified across the four themes including:

  1. Appropriate data acquisition and reporting of the SDG 6 status; capacity building, and effective mechanisms to get research into practice. 
  2. Governance systems are  generally constrained by sectoral interests (i.e. top down and poorly connected to local needs). There should be improved training of water managers etc in how to use data in decision making  and policy development. Need to review weak legal frameworks.
  3. Knowledge and engagement with communities is the key to successfully attaining SDG 6 and achieving the behavioural change.
  4. Effective drinking water and waste water technologies need to be simple, with low infrastructure and maintenance costs and low energy inputs.

As a result, it was recommended that the Scottish Government seek support from the science community to achieve and monitor SDGs. This will open new challenges for research, partnerships, and opportunities to find solutions to complex development challenges. 


22nd March 2019

Our most precious resource - water!

Today on World Water Day, we focus our minds on the world’s most precious resource. Without it there would be no life on Earth- it is as simple as that. No humans, animals, plants, microbes, and no rain, clouds, rivers or oceans. We are indeed a blue planet, unique (so far!) floating in space.

But the statistics on what we are doing to this precious resource are just staggering;
•    Every minute a new born child dies from a water-based infection;
•    Over 30% of the world’s schools don’t have access to clean water;
•    We produce six times more wastewater than the discharge from all the worlds rivers;
•    The freshwater species extinction rate is five times that of terrestrial systems;
•    70% of industrial discharges in developing countries are discharged untreated into water courses;
•    Runoff from agri-chemicals is polluting groundwater, surface waters and ocean around the globe and is on the increase.

But perhaps the most indicative fact of where we are as a global population in our relationship with water is that across the world more people have access to a mobile phone than have access to a toilet!
Even understanding the importance of water globally we still treat it with an incredible disregard. Our ever-increasing demands place an enormous pressure on our water resources across the globe. With a burgeoning population, the demand for water in food production and the uncertainty of climate change we all need to look carefully at our attitude to water and the way it is used and managed. In Scotland, we are lucky enough to live in a water rich country, but we are also very aware of recent episodes over the last few years when either we have too much or too little water, and the disruption that has caused. The Scottish Government Hydro Nation agenda has placed duties on Ministers to protect and enhance our water resources, and it is the first country in the world to do so and provide a framework of sustainable management which is being promoted both at home and overseas.
The James Hutton Institute is deeply embedded in delivering that vision. We lead the Centre of Expertise for Waters (CREW), host the Hydro Nation Scholars and International Fellow Programmes and the European funded Water Test Network which helps to bring new water technology to the market place. We also undertake a programme of water-based research in support of Scottish Government’s strategic research programme.  Internationally, you may be aware of the innovative, interdisciplinary project providing a sustainable low carbon treatment system to pupils and staff in Berambadi school, Karnataka. I would encourage you to watch the short video made by the team, which can be found here. In addition, the Institute also has other water-based projects with partners across Europe, India, China, Pakistan and Sub-Saharan Africa. 
Today, it is also fantastic to announce the establishment of the Hydro Nation International Centre, supported by the Macaulay Development Trust, at the Craigiebuckler campus of the James Hutton Institute. This will provide significant added value to our on-going activities and act as a focus for our international work, innovation, training and skills development.
Further, on World Water Day we are delighted to support Scottish Water’s “Your water, your life” campaign, which encourages us all to carry a refillable bottle and “top up from the tap”. We are all too aware of the environmental and societal cost of single use plastic bottles, and to support this life-style change we will give every member of staff  at the James Hutton Institute  a special refillable bottle to encourage everyone to realise the health benefits of drinking more Scottish tap water, which is excellent in both its quality and taste.
So, when you fill your bottle, just take a moment to realise how precious this wonderful resource really is, and how the Institute and its partners are delivering a sustainable future for water resources across the globe.

19th March 2019

CREW project 'Dynamic Coast' wins Spotlight Prize

We are excited to announce that CREW project Dynamic Coast (National Coastal Change Assessment, NCCA) has won the Spotlight Prize at the 4th Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards on 21st February 2019.

Dynamic Coast is an open access web-based tool, offering easy-to-interpret reports and maps of the entire 21,000 km of Scottish coastline, allowing for swift identification of potential areas of erosions and vulnerable assets such as roads, rails, or houses concerned. Of the 21,000 km of the Scottish coastline categorised, 3,800 km of potentially erodible ‘soft’ coast have been identified with 23% having experienced significant change. Past rates have been projected to 2050 to identify likely areas of erosion and the assets (roads, rail, housing etc.) that may be vulnerable.  The Coastal Change Assessment aims to create a shared evidence base to support more sustainable coastal and terrestrial planning decisions in the light of a changing climate. The public web-based maps, reports and videos provide easy to interpret maps of the past and anticipated changes on all of Scotland’s erodible shorelines.  A second phase of work, NCCA 2 is currently underway to enhance the NCCA evidence base on future erosion risks. This project is led by Scottish Natural Heritage in collaboration with the University of Glasgow's School of Geographical & Earth Sciences. To find out more about Dynamic Coast click here, and watch this short video. For more information on the award, click here.

4th December 2018

Scotland's Flood Risk Management Conference 2019

Scotland's annual Flood Risk Management Conference will take place on 5-6 February 2019 at Strathclyde University's Technology and Innovation Centre in Glasgow.

The conference will celebrate achievements and aim to build on them to provide a vision and plan for the future, linking policy and on the ground experiences. The aim is to have the most inclusive conference yet; drawing on delegates expertise, via debates, workshops, interactive sessions and delegate driven workshops. The main themes will include communications with communities and adaptation to climate change with a view to future planning cycles.

The conference is the key opportunity for Scotland’s flood risk management community to come together to share knowledge and best practice.

A detailed programme of the Conference will soon be available on Sniffer’s website

17th October 2018

Flood Risk Management Conference 2019

Hold the date for Flood Risk Management Conference 2019 - 5-6 February 2019 at Strathclyde Technology and Innovation Centre, Glasgow

The 2019 Flood Risk Management Conference will be held at Technology and Innovation Centre, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow on Tuesday 5 and Wednesday 6 February 2019. Tickets will be released in November. Please see for more details.

17th October 2018

Water and the circular economy - where is the greatest sustainable economic benefit for resource recovery in the water environment?


This project set out to answer three research questions:

  1. which resources can be, in principle, recovered or obtained from water in Scotland;
  2. what is the total amount of each resource that is present in, or can be obtained from, different water sources in Scotland, and;
  3. which maximum market value and potential savings in energy and carbon dioxide emissions could be achieved when assuming 100% recovery of each resource.

In this project, researchers calculated the amount of each resource (N, P, K, Mg, Ca, Fe, heat, methane and hydrogen) which is present or can be obtained from raw waters or wastewaters in Scotland, their economic value and the maximum potential savings in energy and carbon dioxide emissions associated with the recovery of these resources. The technology readiness level (TRL) of the processes needed for the recovery of these resources was also estimated, and recommendations are provided in the report for future investigations.




Private water supplies: Are they inhibiting growth and flexibility of the rural economy, or impacting population distribution?

Rural community on Isle of Skye

Private water supplies (PWS) are those supplies that are not provided by Scottish Water, and instead are the responsibility of their owners and users. A key policy priority for Scottish Government is how to make these supplies sustainable and of good quality and quantity.

Private supplies are subject to variable quality. In some cases being of particularly high water quality, but in others failing to meet drinking water standards due largely to poor quality supply, poor or inadequate treatment or substandard construction and maintenance. Quantity can also be problematic, with some supplies reducing in flow or drying up completely particularly during the summer months.

Previous CREW research aimed to identify how to better engage with communities around their PWS and in doing so highlighted a number of research gaps. These centred on the operational costs of a private supply for the PWS owner and its impact on the wider local economy. This research investigates these topics in further detail.

Project Objectives

The overall objective is to investigate the potential and actual impacts of PWS on individuals, PWS owners, communities, individual businesses (particularly around tourism, agriculture and small business start-ups), the rural economy, and consequently population distribution.

  1. Identify the costs of managing a PWS on households and businesses
    1. Review existing published information on PWS operational and maintenance costs.
    2. Develop and implement a research methodology for engaging with the case study communities.
    3. Identify options for estimating the cost (and its variability) to individuals and communities.
  2. Determine the impact of PWS on the wider local economy. How dependant is the rural economy on PWS? Is economic growth inhibited by PWS? Do PWS influence population distribution e.g. a shift to urban areas?
  1. Briefly review existing published information on how reliance on PWS may impact rural economies.
  2. Engage with rural communities and businesses to determine levels of concern around water quality and quantity restricting the growth of the local rural economy.
  3. Using qualitative data, determine the short and potential long-term impacts of PWS on the local economy, based on participants’ perceptions.
  4. Asses the role PWS have had on change in population/community structure and how might this change in the future.

A review of investment decisions at small drinking water supply systems with declining water quality issues

water droplets

Since 2002 Scottish Water, supported by the Scottish Government, has successfully delivered a capital investment program which has brought about measurable improvements to drinking water quality and service levels across Scotland aimed at delivering compliance with the Water Scotland Act, and reducing risks of non-compliance. While the vast majority of treatment systems deliver cost effective drinking water, there remains a sub-set of drinking water treatment works that have challenges that are manifested as either deterioration in drinking water quality and/or require intensive capital investment to mitigate the stress on drinking water quality compliance at small rural treatment works. Investment drivers typically include DOC, Fe, Mn, turbidity, cryptosporidium and disinfection control. 

This project seeks to review the challenges in delivering drinking water compliance, with focus on the investment drivers listed above. The research will include the identification of three case studies - small drinking water supply systems with declining water quality issues - and an evaluation of the capital investment decisions made which are designed to meet drinking water regulatory compliance with a view to establishing value for money, sustainability, improvements to public health, improvements to social justice aspects, effectiveness of interventions, and how the decisions made have been influenced by the regulatory and policy framework.

Project Objectives

1. In collaboration with the CREW Protecting Drinking Water steering group, identify three case study sites.

2. Review the drinking water treatment system’s performance relative to the drinking water regulatory requirements and the legislative framework.

3. Assess the capital investment plans to improve compliance at the case study sites and investigate the effectiveness of the decisions in relation to the supplies, interventions and cost effectiveness of the interventions proposed.

1st November 2013

Source Control SUDS in Scotland

This project looks at various aspects of source control SUDS in Scotland and globally. The following publications are part of this project: 

  • Research Summary: Implementation of Source Control SUDS in Scotland. 
  • A rapid review of the background to source control. 
  • Source control SUDS delivery on a global scale and in Scotland including approach by responsible organisations and professional groups. 
  • Appendices




30th April 2012

A review of the arguments relating to bulk export of water

Agricultural field

This document reviews the available information on water export and summarises the arguments for and against, providing examples where possible.There is very limited, up-to-date robust and impartial evidence relating to bulk export of water, consequently much of the information presented here is International in its nature.


Subscribe to CREW | Scotland's Centre of Expertise for Waters RSS