Protecting Scotland's groundwaters from pollution

Closed 31 Mar 2021

Opened 23 Nov 2020


The Scottish Government is consulting on improvements to the way in which we protect groundwater in Scotland. The 'Protecting Scotland's groundwater from pollution' consultation proposes:

  • revised environmental standards;
  • an updated list of groundwater hazardous substances;
  • greater clarity about the circumstances where remediation is required and an improved approach to prioritising areas of land contamination for remedial action.

To align with the Scottish Government proposals, SEPA is consulting on revised guidance associated with the Scottish Government consultation:

  • Land contamination and impacts on the water environment
  • WAT-PS-10, on Assigning groundwater assessment criteria for pollutant inputs

We recommend that you read the Scottish Government consultation prior to reading this guidance. This will allow you to understand the changes being proposed by the Scottish Government before reading the more detailed guidance.

Why your views matter

We want to better protect Scotland’s groundwater. The Scottish Government consultation sets out how we will so this in a fair and more environmentally based way.

To help industry and other interested stakeholders further understand the detail of the proposed approach SEPA have taken this opportunity to update the guidance, Land contamination and impacts on the water environment and guiance document WAT-PS-10, on assigning groundwater assessment criteria for pollutant inputs.  

We would value your feedback on these consultations so we can improve our approach.

What happens next

We acknowledge and thank you for the responses we've received in relation to the consultation on Protecting Scotland’s Groundwater from Pollution which closed on 31 March 2021. Following a cyber-attack on SEPA in December 2020, we've not been able to assess the responses as quickly as we would normally.

The responses have generally been in favour of our proposals for groundwater standards. The exception to this was including taste and odour criteria to derive standards. We therefore propose to broadly proceed with the proposed standards and are considering the use of the taste and odour criteria.

The responses on the land contamination aspects were less positive, with many respondents disagreeing with the proposal to require a register of sites meeting exemption criteria and to alter the legislation to allow SEPA to highlight to local authorities that sites may be special sites. We therefore don’t propose to take forward these aspects at this time.  

We are working on a more detailed response to your comments and will be able to provide you with this in due course. We would also like to thank respondents who offered to participate in further discussions on comments made, should this be helpful. We will keep this in mind as we further work through the responses.    

SEPA is working on revisions to their guidance 'Land contamination and impacts on the water environment' and 'WAT-PS-10- Assigning groundwater assessment criteria for pollutant inputs' to take account of your comments.

The consultations can be found at:


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


  • Water Quality
  • Water flows and levels
  • Flood Risk Management Planning
  • River Basin Management Planning
  • Regulated activities