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RD 1.2.4 Effectiveness of water management

RD 1.2.4 Effectiveness of water management

Human societies place many demands on our freshwater systems. We hope they can provide everything from recreational opportunities through to safe drinking water. These aims are often reflected and reinforced in the goals of formal policies, especially the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) and the Floods Directive (FD). However, although we often have relatively good understanding of the biophysical challenges – e.g. pollution levels that cause eutrophication and harm fish populations – tackling these problems is rarely easy or straightforward. Furthermore, actions to achieve one goal – e.g. altering building of concrete embankments to reduce flood risks – may conflict with other goals - e.g. restoring catchment ecology to achieve good ecological status. Certain types of intervention offer ‘win wins’ that help support multiple goals – for example Natural Flood Management (NFM) can help to support both Flood Risk Management and ecological restoration – but in other cases trade-offs may have to be accepted.

Finding ways to improve water management – to better achieve these goals – is rarely straightforward. The ultimate causes of problems must be understood, and then addressing these often requires changes by individuals and organisations. Multiple social, economic and biophysical factors may drive and reinforce actions that harm the environment or that prevent us from achieving all our goals. This means that we need to reflect on the goals and priorities that we have for our water environment, carefully appraise the range of ‘instruments’ or approaches that could help us achieve these goals, and build understanding of how – and with whom - to implement them. This RD focuses on building this understanding to help inform and improve future water management. It draws on a mixture of disciplinary skills and expertise including, but not limited to, the social and economic sciences.

Aim of Research

To enable the uptake of measures that will improve water management, both to improve water quality and to contribute to flood risk management. This RD examines the options to improve water management in the complex socio-economic and policy settings of 'real world' catchment management. Separate projects within this RD range in their focus from reviewing lessons from water management in other countries, through to lessons that can be derived from ongoing work in Scottish catchments, and in synthesising evidence and providing tools that can help policy and practitioners to select, target and design measures.

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 1.3.1 Biodiversity and ecosystem functions is available here and includes annual progress and highlights summaries, key outputs and links to case studies and key research staff.

To complement this, additional more detailed information is provided below on specific projects.  Contact Kerry Waylen for more information.


  • Exploring how to integrate goals for water management. This project aims to understand more about the challenges of integration of these two policies, and how and when these issues may be overcome.It first learned from early experiences of implementing the two directives across Europe, and currently is focusing if and how catchment partnerships may assist in integrating goals.
  • Developing a Facilitated Outcome-based Land Management (FOLM) web application This project aims to develop an outcome-based approach to aid land manager decisions about benefits of agri-environment measures.
  • Developing guidance and reviewing spatial analysis tools for Natural Flood Management (NFM). This project is focused on working with stakeholders to share evidence and tools in order to build understanding of NFM and improve the ability to consider it when planning new interventions.  Its website is

One project has already completed:

  • Analysing the efficacy of farmer visits  This project assessed the efficacy of farmer visits in changing behaviour in priority catchments, based on SEPA's data collected during past visits. This project completed in mid 2017.

In addition we have strong links with the following projects:

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.