SCOTLAND'S worst rivers, lochs, canals and burns for pollution have been revealed in new analysis of official watchdog data.

New assessment methods used by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) show Scotland's waterways are in the worst state on record, with more than 400 damaged by pollution and other problems.

The number classified as “bad” doubled between 2018 and 2019. There are “significant environmental problems caused by a number of pressures,” Sepa said. 

Amongst the many rivers rated as either bad or poor by Sepa are some of Scotland’s most well-known. They include long stretches of the Almond, Carron, Dee, Don, Earn, Esk, Kelvin, Lossie, Nairn, Nith, Spey, Tay, Tummel, and Water of Leith. 

Sepa says water bodies are classified by how much their condition differs from near natural conditions. For example, the status of water bodies in a near natural condition is deemed to be “high”, while those with “severely damaged” conditions are considered to be “bad”.

Use our interactive tool below to find the classification of your local waterway.


Campaigners said the pollution of Scotland rivers and lochs was “unacceptable” and demanded an environmental watchdog “with teeth”. Globally freshwater species were going extinct more rapidly than other types of species, they stressed. 

A Sepa spokesperson said: “Most of Scotland’s water environment is already in a good condition and subject to fewer pressures than most other European waters. 

“However, there are significant environmental problems caused by a number of pressures, including diffuse and point source pollution, alterations to beds, banks and shores, alterations to water levels and flows and the presence of invasive non-native species.” 

The results of Sepa’s assessments “can be used to set objectives for improving the water environment through river basin management planning”. 

In December 2020, Sepa published the consultations for its Draft River Basin Management Plan 2021-2027, which ran until June 2021. The feedback is informing the development of the final plans, due to be published in December 2021, added the spokesperson. 

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