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Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003: use of CAR 2011 emergency provisions - policy statement

Published: 21 Mar 2011
Part of:
Environment and climate change
978 1 78045 135 0

Policy statement on implementing the Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003: use of CAR 2011 emergency provisions.

15 page PDF


15 page PDF


Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003: use of CAR 2011 emergency provisions - policy statement

15 page PDF



Controlling the spread of salmon parasites

Gyrodactylus salaris is a small external parasite of salmon in freshwater which could potentially decimate fish stocks. Although the risk of inadvertent introduction of the parasite is assessed as very low, the consequences of introduction are very high for Scotland's salmon stocks and the rural jobs depending upon them. Action taken to deal with these parasites could potentially have a significant adverse impact on the water environment and its users, as it may be necessary to take action to erect barriers to prevent fish movements, suspend transfers of water between different river catchments or to treat infected rivers with toxic chemicals with a view to eradication.

The Scottish Government has produced a GS contingency plan which describes the key actions and organisations involved in dealing with any such outbreak. In order to minimise the risk of spread of gyrodactylus salaris, urgent action is likely to be beneficial where the parasite is identified in the following circumstances:

  • near the mouth of a catchment;
  • in or around a fish farm;
  • below a natural or manmade barrier;
  • in a coastal area with potential for low salinity bridges to neighbouring catchments.

In line with the steps set out in the GS contingency plan, it may prove necessary to consider the authorisation of new controlled activities such as the erection of barriers or discharge of chemicals; or vary or suspend existing authorisations such as abstractions. CAR can facilitate such management actions if considered necessary in line with Ministerial policy.

Managing invasive non-native species

As travel, trade, and tourism have increased, humans have facilitated the movement of plants and animals around the world, beyond natural barriers (such as oceans, mountain ranges and deserts). If plants and animals are introduced to areas which have similar environmental conditions to their native range, they have the potential to become established. As plants and animals are often introduced without their usual predators they can have an advantage over native species and may become invasive.

The Scottish Government's approach to invasive non-native species is guided by the internationally recognised 3-stage hierarchical approach. Its key principles are:

  • Prevention - preventing the release of all non-native species should be given the highest priority as the most effective and least environmentally damaging intervention.
  • Rapid response (eradication) - where prevention fails, early eradication or removal should be the preferred response.
  • Control and containment - once a species has become widely established, full-scale eradication is possible or cost effective in only a minority of cases. However, if the invasive non-native species has negative impacts then it may be necessary to mitigate their impacts or control or contain the population.

CAR can facilitate emergency management actions if considered necessary in line with Ministerial policy.

Managing water shortages

Water is one of our most valuable resources, and in Scotland we are fortunate in that a sustained and widespread drought is very unlikely. However, from time to time, we do experience extended periods of low rainfall, usually fairly localised in extent, but which can result in very low flows in our rivers and very low water levels in our lochs and reservoirs. As a result of climate change the frequency of such periods may well increase. Fortunately, they are characterised by a relatively slow onset, and thus steps can be taken to help protect the water environment and sustain important water uses, such as drinking water supply, until wetter weather returns.

To ensure the appropriate steps are taken when such situations arise, we expect SEPA, in consultation with stakeholders, to develop plans describing the environmental measures likely to be required as a period of low rainfall becomes progressively more prolonged. We envisage that the plans will include a national plan setting out high level principles and actions; supplemented, where appropriate, by more detailed plans setting out specific local actions. The measures identified in the plans will be designed to meet our obligations to protect our water environment, including the needs of protected areas such as Special Areas of Conservation.

SEPA's action plans must complement the River Basin Management Plans and strike the right balance between the consequences of a lack of water for human and economic activities during prolonged dry weather and the need to maximise protection of our water environment. SEPA will be expected to work with Scottish Water to ensure its plans and those produced by Scottish Water in relation to public water supplies are coordinated and complementary.

Where action is needed during a period of low rainfall to protect the water environment or maintain public water supplies, SEPA will be able to temporarily authorise, vary or suspend controlled activities as appropriate.

Action required in the event of exotic notifiable animal disease

Much of Scotland's land is under agricultural production and the sector is responsible for many of Scotland's food exports. In rural areas the industry creates many economic, environmental and social benefits, with a large number of people directly employed in agricultural activities. Therefore as a matter of course, the Scottish Government promotes good practice measures to help minimise the risk of disease.

However in the event of an exotic notifiable animal disease, the Scottish Government has set out its strategy to deal with these diseases in its Exotic Animal Disease Contingency Framework Plan. A notifiable animal disease is a disease named in section 88 of the Animal Health Act 1981 or an Order made under that Act. "Exotic" notifiable animal diseases are diseases not normally found in Great Britain. The diseases are listed as notifiable because of their potential for very serious and rapid spread, irrespective of national borders, and are of major importance in international trade or because they have serious socio-economic or public health consequences.

Animals infected with a notifiable infectious or contagious disease may excrete vast quantities of virus contaminating the environment and providing a potent source of infection either directly or indirectly for other susceptible animals. It is important therefore that they are killed as quickly as possible. Once an animal is killed new virus production stops. The carcases of the killed animals must be destroyed. The decision on the disposal site and method will depend on a number of factors including disposal capacity and logistical issues.

The preferred hierarchy for disposal in Scotland is rendering/ incineration at approved and licensed premises; landfill; burial on farm; incineration on farm.

SEPA will advise on the suitability of disposal sites in Scotland. SEPA is also responsible for authorising disposal by landfill, and on farm burial/ incineration. For certain types of disposal, SEPA will use its powers under Scotland's waste legislation. However disposals on farm could have an impact on the water environment, particularly groundwater which is important for drinking water supplies. It is important that SEPA can give due consideration to the implications of such burials on public health and the water environment and the fast-track procedures can facilitate appropriate authorisation under CAR.