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Scotland’s water is essential for our health and prosperity. As well as being used for drinking, water is used in industry (e.g. distilling whisky and supporting fisheries), for producing energy (hydropower), and for recreational activities (such as bird-watching, angling and water sports). Scotland’s seas support a wide variety of activities, including commercial fishing and energy production. Our water supports an array of habitats and contains nationally and internationally important populations of some species.
Covering about 2% of Scotland's land area, our rivers and lochs contain 90% of the UK’s surface freshwater.
Our water is generally in good condition, and there have been significant reductions in pollution over the last 25 years.
Most of our seas, coasts and estuaries are in good or excellent condition. There are localised areas of concern, but pollution problems caused in the past have largely been addressed.
Habitats within Scottish inshore waters are declining in condition or are stable but still of concern, and most areas have some species that are declining to a point that is now of concern.
Most of our groundwater is in good condition, and approximately two-thirds of lochs and just over half of rivers were reported as being in good or better condition under the Water Framework Directive assessment.
Overall, the wildlife of rivers and lochs is considered to be in good condition, although a number of individual species are declining.
For rivers and lochs, the main issues are:
The main challenges faced by the marine environment are:
Groundwater is under pressure from:
We need to work together to balance the many demands on our water environment. The National Marine Plan and River Basin Management Plans aim to encourage development that balances the needs of the economy, society and the environment, now and in the future.
Almost all (97%) of Scotland’s coastal waters are in good or high condition, but there are local impacts from commercial fishing, aquaculture and diffuse pollution. Growth in industries such as aquaculture and renewable energy may increase pressure on coastal waters.Read more
Scottish estuaries are important resources for wildlife and humans, and 85% are in good or high environmental condition. However, they remain under pressure from human activity, particularly from nutrient enrichment and the damaging impacts of climate change.Read more
Scotland’s lochs are an important part of our landscape and provide water for drinking and power generation as well as space for recreation. They are generally in good condition.Read more
Our seas are biologically diverse and relatively unpolluted. Some fishing is unsustainable, and energy production competes for space and increases pollution risks.Read more
Scottish coastal and estuarine habitats are full of rich, diverse and fragile sea life that is under considerable pressure and shows signs of damage, but may be recovered through sustainable management.Read more