Protecting Scotland's groundwater from pollution

Closed 31 Mar 2021

Opened 23 Nov 2020


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This consultation by the Scottish Government proposes a number of improvements to the way in which we protect groundwater in Scotland.

These proposals have been developed in conjunction with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

The closing date for this consultation is 31 March 2021, not 12 February as stated in the pdf document. Due to a sophisticated criminal cyber-attack on SEPA, we are unable to amend the document at this time. 

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Why your views matter

There are 3 distinct elements to our proposals:

  • We are proposing to introduce revised environmental standards for substances that can adversely affect groundwater.  In this context, the term “standard” is taken to mean the concentration of a pollutant at which an adverse impact would occur as well as the rules used to assess this. The standards would be used when assessing whether those substances are causing pollution of groundwater or impacting on the status of a groundwater body.
  • A subset of these substances are so toxic, persistent and liable to accumulate in organisms (‘bioaccumulate’) that they pose a greater risk to groundwater. We need to prevent entry of these substances into groundwater to avoid a risk of deterioration. These are known as “groundwater hazardous substances”. We propose to introduce a revised list of such substances, with associated standards.

SEPA has revised its guidance on how to use these standards - WAT-PS-10 Assigning groundwater assessment criteria for pollutant inputs, and is currently consulting on its draft guidance. You may wish to read that in conjunction with this paper.

  • We are also proposing to make some changes to land contamination legislation, to provide greater clarity about the circumstances where remediation is required and to what extent, and to better prioritise sites for remedial action.

SEPA has developed revised guidance on Land contamination and impacts on the water environment, and is consulting separately on that. You may wish to read that in conjunction with this consultation.

What happens next

Following the closing date, all responses will be analysed and considered along with any other available evidence to help us. An analysis report will be made available.


  • Agriculture
  • Distilling
  • Hydropower
  • Local Authorities
  • Responsible Authorities
  • Industry
  • Landowners/ managers
  • Public
  • Water
  • Waste
  • Land


  • Water Regulation
  • Diffuse pollution
  • Restoration
  • Protected areas
  • Water Quality
  • Water flows and levels
  • Resources
  • Regulated activities