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RD 1.2.2 Impacts of change on water


Achieving Good Ecological Status of inland waters under the European Water Framework Directive 2000 remains a major challenge in Scotland and throughout Europe. Furthermore, future environmental change is likely to have significant, but so far largely unquantified, impacts on Scotland’s water resources, both in terms of quality and quantity. Therefore, this project aims to address a range of important current environmental challenges relating to water quality and flow management in running waters under projected scenarios of environmental change. These include evaluation of extreme events such as floods and droughts and management of water quality to improve the evidence base of observed and modelled data on water quantity (floods and droughts, morphology) and quality (sediments, nutrients, pathogens and emerging contaminants) and contribute to the attainment of water quality and flow management objectives by environmental managers, regulators and policymakers.

Aim of Research

To support a range of Scottish policy priorities. These include:

  1. Flooding e.g. helping local authorities incorporate uncertainty into Flood Risk Management (FRM) plans; meeting the requirements of the Floods Directive (FD).
  2. Water quality e.g. providing evidence for the Nitrates Directive (ND) review; informing regulation of shellfish and bathing water protected areas; reducing water treatment costs through improved catchment management; and meeting the requirements of the Drinking Water Directive (DWD) and WFD.

The project will address questions such as: What changes may take place in the future, where and why? What determines sensitivity, resilience and response to change? Can we detect change? What statistical methods are appropriate? Can we separate the effects of policy interventions from other factors? What management approaches are effective in controlling water quantity and quality at catchment scale? How might this change in the future? What are the key uncertainties and how do they affect decision making?

A range of models and data analysis tools are being developed to characterise Scotland’s present-day water resources (quantity and quality), including any existing trends, and improve our understanding of how these may change in the future. Possible effects of land use and climate change on Scotland’s water resources will be considered to help to define limits for the fair and sustainable use of natural assets such as water, land, energy and nutrients (e.g. nitrogen and phosphorus).


Further information

General information on the Scottish Environment, Food and Agriculture Research Institutes (SEFARI) and the Scottish Government funded Strategic Research Portfolio can be found on the SEFARI website.
Within this, there are webpages providing summary overview information for each of the Research Deliverables (RDs) within the Strategic Programme. The page for RD 1.2.2 Impacts of change on water is available here and includes annual progress and highlights summaries, key outputs and links to case studies and key research staff.
To complement this, some additional more detailed information is provided below on specific projects

Current research projects:

Flood risk modelling

Integrated catchment modelling

Linking pollution impacts and ecological status

  • CEN Standard for pearl mussel catchments


Project Information
Project Type: 
Active Project
SEFARI – Scottish Environment, Food and Agriculture Research InstitutesSEFARI is the collective of six Scottish world-leading Research Institutes working across the spectrum of environment, land, food, agriculture and communities – all topics which affect how we live our lives, in Scotland and beyond.


Areas of Interest

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.