The policy framework for implementing the WFD is drawn up by Scottish Ministers who set the policy requirements for SEPA and are responsible for approving objectives, programmes of measures and the final River Basin Management Plans for the Scotland River Basin District, required to achieve the objectives of the WFD. More information can be found from:

Scottish Ministers and the Secretary of State are jointly responsible for these issues in the cross-border Solway Tweed River Basin District.

See also River Basin Districts


The WFD was transposed into Scottish law through the Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003, known as the WEWS Act. The Act gives Scottish Ministers powers to introduce regulatory controls over certain activities in order to protect and improve Scotland's water environment. The Act is in three parts:

  • Part 1 relates to protection of the water environment and to the implementation of the WFD to protect and improve the water environment, to promote sustainable water use, reduce discharges of priority substances and cease discharges of priority hazardous substances, and to contribute to mitigating the effects of floods and droughts.
  • Part 2 covers issues relating to the provision of water and sewerage services.
  • Part 3 deals with the making of orders and regulations under the Act.

Copies can be obtained from:


In drawing up the provisions of the WEWS Act the Scottish Government took the opportunity to go beyond the requirements of the WFD and introduce provisions that should result in better environmental improvements for Scotland.

These include:

  • Specifications for the implementation of the river basin planning process in Scotland.
  • Requirements for River Basin District boundaries to be designated. This has been done – most of Scotland falls into the Scotland River Basin District; two districts span the border with England – the Solway Tweed district (70% lies in Scotland) and the Northumbria district, which is mostly in England.
  • Identification of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) as the competent authority for the Scotland River Basin District; certain duties given to Scottish Ministers. See Competent Authority
  • Requirements for control regimes to regulate all activities that pose a risk to the water environment. These arrangements have now been introduced via the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2005 (CAR), which came into force on 1 April 2006.
  • The Regulations can be obtained from:

  • The policy statement and Regulatory Impact Assessment for CAR are available from:
  • These Regulations have since been revised and amended:

    The Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011

    Scottish Statutory Instrument 2011 No. 209

    The Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2013

    Scottish Statutory Instrument 2013 No. 176

    Implementing the Water environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003: The Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011 - Policy Statement

  • The CAR Practical Guide from SEPA includes the changes to CAR brought in by the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2013.
  • (https://www.sepa.org.uk/media/34761/car_a_practical_guide.pdf)

  • Provisions for the promotion of sustainable development, including specific duties for Scottish Ministers, SEPA and responsible authorities to ensure that the WFD is considered in carrying out any of their functions that impact on the water environment. Responsible authorities were designated in April 2006.
    See also Designated Responsible Authorities:
  • Designation Order available at:

    Policy statement and Regulatory Impact Assessment is available at:

  • The requirement for all designated authorities to have specific regard to sustainable flood management in the exercise of their functions.
  • The requirement for Scottish Water to take responsibility for the ongoing maintenance of all Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS) that meet certain construction standards.
  • WFD objectives will apply to coastal waters out to three nautical miles (The WFD requires one nautical mile).
  • Specific requirements to identify pressures and impacts in wetlands directly dependent on a body of either surface or groundwater. The Directive’s monitoring requirements have also been extended to cover such wetlands.

Controlled activities are defined within WEWS but are modified by CAR to include the following activities:

  • Abstractions from surface and groundwater;
  • Impoundments of rivers, lochs, wetlands and transitional waters;
  • Groundwater recharge;
  • Engineering in rivers, lochs and wetlands;
  • Engineering activities in the vicinity of rivers, lochs and wetland which are likely to have a significant adverse impact upon the water environment;
  • Activities liable to cause pollution;
  • Direct or indirect discharge of List I substances to groundwater;
  • Any other activities which directly or indirectly is liable to cause a significant adverse impact upon the water environment.
  • From the 1st April 2006, it is an offence to undertake any of these activities without a CAR authorization. The Regulations apply to Scotland as a whole, which includes the Scotland River Basin District as well as those parts of the cross-border Solway Tweed and Northumbria River Basin Districts within Scotland.
  • Scotland has a single water authority, Scottish Water, established in April 2002 by the Water Industry (Scotland) Act 2002. Scottish Water was formed from three former public water authorities and supplies water and wastewater services to the whole of Scotland. As the abstraction of water for supply and the discharge of wastewaters are controlled activities all authorisations are now part of CAR licensing superseding the old regime of water orders and Acts of Parliament. See also Water Management:
  • Information on a number of important documents e.g. current consultations, policy documents, and statements on key aspects of WFD implementation are available at:



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