Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Regulation that protects surface water and groundwater in Scotland

Regulation that protects surface water and groundwater in Scotland

Surface waters and groundwater are protected by a number of different regulatory controls. These protect water from pollution, prevent water sources from being depleted and control interferences with the natural flow of water.

Be aware that:

  • You must be authorised to carry out a controlled water activity if you want to discharge anything into surface waters or groundwater. See the page in this guideline: Consents and authorisations you will need
  • The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) can issue notices to businesses to control water pollution. See the page in this guide on Notices that prevent and control water pollution.
  • If your business activities pose an imminent threat to the environment, you must notify the relevant enforcing authority if the threat continues and take steps to prevent environmental damage. Where environmental damage has already occurred you must take action to remedy the damage. See our guideline: Environmental damage.
  • You may need a trade effluent consent or agreement from your water and sewerage company before you discharge trade effluent (liquid waste) into a public foul sewer. See our guideline: Trade effluent – discharges to sewer
  • You must have an abstraction licence from SEPA if you take certain quantities of water from surface waters or groundwater, or if you impound (store or dam) water on an inland watercourse.
  • You must make sure you store and use hazardous substances safely to avoid causing harm to human health or the environment. See our guidelines: Chemical storage and Oil storage.
  • If you have a farm in a nitrate vulnerable zone (NVZ) - an area designated as being at risk from agricultural nitrate pollution - you must comply with specific rules. Scotland: Nitrate vulnerable zones (NVZs)

If you pollute water or carry out certain activities without the necessary authorisation you may be fined, or even sent to prison.

In this Guideline

Causes of water pollution

Regulation that protects surface water and groundwater in Northern Ireland

Regulation that protects surface water and groundwater in Scotland

Consents and authorisations you will need

Notices that prevent and control water pollution

Practical ways you can prevent water pollution

Drainage system requirements to avoid pollution

Water pollution legislation

Environmental News Blog

  • My Year at NetRegs, A reflection on my time as an intern with the NetRegs team at SEPA. An overview of all the activities and projects I had the opportunity to participate in during my Bright Green Environmental Placement.

  • A day with Hydrology, SEPA's hydrometry unit is responsible for around 400 gauging stations and 350 rainfall monitoring sites. River gauging stations are important as they allow river levels to be monitored so flood events can be predicted and flood warnings sent out.

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