15.2: Environmental Assessment
Does the plan deliver sufficient measures of adaptation, taking into account projected climate change?
The Action Plan has been assessed using a framework derived from adaptation key challenges for the sector identified by the Scottish Climate Change Impacts Partnership's work on sector opportunities and threats and from the baseline data review. The framework presented in the table below identifies the extent to which the Water Resource Management Action Plan addresses the relevant key challenges.
Assessment of Adaptation Measures:
Key environmental challenges for the sector
Are these challenges addressed in the Action Plan?
More frequent and severe river flooding and coastal flooding.
The Action Plan contains actions that seek to increase data on flood risk, improve monitoring of this risk and flood warning dissemination, and to provide guidance on management through catchment management.
Whilst the Plan includes actions that aim to deal with river basin management, there are no specific actions focusing on coastal flooding. However, coastal flooding might be a consideration for certain flood risk management plans and this information could subsequently be used to inform future updates to the plan.
Increased likelihood of summer droughts, leading to river water quality problems and disruption of water supply.
Water resource management plans will help to identify the environmental impacts of reduced rainfall and how this should be managed. Action for Scottish Water to reduce leakages should also support supply. Promotion of water use efficiency will also help to meet this challenge.
Limitation to abstract any supply of water taken from the natural environment.
Whilst there are no specific actions dealing with water abstraction, it is assumed that this will be included in water resource management plans. This will ensure that the need for any future limitations on abstraction are identified where required.
High intensity rainfall causing destruction to river habitat.
The actions do not specifically seek to enable river habitats to adapt to intense rainfall. However, actions within the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Resilience Action Plan, to identify and improve the resilience of sensitive habitats, are expected to address this as required.
Increased erosion - the removal of soil or rocks by water or wind.
The Action Plan does not specifically investigate this environmental issue. Flood risk management actions will help to contribute towards reducing water erosion. The Biodiversity and Ecosystem Resilience Action Plan includes an action to guide the management of soils to reduce erosion.
Higher sea level, increased wave height leading to coastal erosion and loss of habitat.
The actions do not specifically cover adaptation to coastal erosion. However, the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Resilience Action Plan seeks to identify the most vulnerable habitats and to assess and manage vulnerable coasts, promoting adaptive management.
Periods of reduced river flow, providing less dilution for discharges and increased sewage treatment costs.
The Plan includes an action to consider the impacts of flows on the sewerage network and this would help to protect waterways from contamination.
Increased run-off impacting on water quality, including bathing water.
Actions for river basin management and flood risk management planning should help to limit run off issues. Actions within the Built Environment Action Plan will also help to limit pollutant run off from urban areas.
Enhanced plant/algal growth due to increased temperature.
The impacts of algal growth on the water environment are not specifically included within this Action Plan, nor are they highlighted within the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Resilience or Marine and Fisheries Action Plans. However, the Health and Wellbeing Action Plan seeks to protect drinking water quality and considers algal growth in the supporting text. Further consideration could usefully be given to how this is addressed within this, or the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Resilience Action Plan.
Increase run-off, increasing nutrient loading in water.
There are no specific actions dealing with this issue, although the issue may arise in river basin management plans and nutrient loading is a long established challenge for the agricultural sector.
Threats to ecological quality of water bodies.
Ecological water quality is not considered in a specific action, but is likely to be explored in detail within the river basin management planning process.
Most of the relevant environmental challenges are considered by the actions within the Water Resource Management Action Plan. Furthermore, the Plan is supported by actions within other sectors. For example, identification and consideration of areas susceptible to coastal erosion are considered within the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Resilience Action Plan. It is recommended that further action to identify the potential implications of sea level rise is addressed within the Water Resource Management Action Plan.
Some issues that affect water quality are not addressed in the Plan, specifically, nutrient loading from increased run off and algal growth as a result of increasing temperatures, which are threats to the ecological quality of water. As the suite of plans evolves, there may be scope for further coordinated action with the Agriculture, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Resilience and Health & Wellbeing sectors, to address these issues more fully. Furthermore, close working with the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Resilience sector might propose further actions to limit the impacts of high intensity rainfall on river habitats.
The assessment has identified the potential for reduced water for abstraction during periods of reduced river flow. Whilst there may be some consideration of this within river basement management planning, there may be further action required, in partnership with Scottish Water, to respond to this threat.
Will any of the measures impact on other aspects of the environment?
In order to ascertain if the Action Plans will have wider effects on the environment, each of the proposed actions were assessed against the SEA environmental topic areas screened into the assessment. The table below provides a summary of the environmental effects of this assessment.
Environmental Assessment of the Adaptation Actions:
Summary and Comment
Climate Change Mitigation
Actions which reduce water wastage, either through reduction in the leakage from the distribution network, or through the promotion of water-use efficiency, will reduce treatment requirements (at both ends of the lifecycle). This will reduce energy usage and thus contribute to a lowering of greenhouse gas emissions. Likewise, where water infrastructure is upgraded in light of research, this may include upgrades to more energy efficient processes.
Population and Human Health
The actions directly and indirectly have the potential to have positive effects on population and human health. Flood warning procedures, such as the expansion of 'Floodline', the Joint Forecasting Service and flood risk plans will allow a rapid and proactive response to flooding. Monitoring and research leading to flood management will help reduce flood risk, having effects on human health, particularly mental health, which is shown to be affected by flooding and the threat of flood returns. Furthermore, upgrades of sewerage networks and water treatment facilities may prevent sewage contamination of flood waters, a potential risk to human health. Efficiency measures will reduce wastage, potentially helping maintain supplies in times of drought, which may become more frequent as the climate changes.
Biodiversity, Flora and Fauna
Although there may be secondary benefits from river basin management planning from the actions proposed by this sector, no significant effects on biodiversity are currently expected.
The actions proposed by the Action Plan are unlikely to have significant effects on landscape, cultural heritage and soil.
On the whole, the actions proposed by the Action Plan are likely to have positive and direct effects on water. Several actions seek to reduce water wastage, thereby helping conserve resources, managing water at catchment level, and seeking to reduce the threats of flooding. Although the actions currently drive research in the area of adaptation requirements, in terms of dealing with extraneous flows and changing supply and demand, this in turn may lead to improvements across the water sector, helping to preserve quality of water, both drinking and fresh.
The actions will have significant and direct effects by reducing impacts of climate change on material assets, including housing and infrastructure, which will minimise the need for new build and repair.
On the whole, the actions within this plan are expected have positive or neutral environmental effects. However, many of these effects may only arise from subsequent actions as a result of planning, research and guidance, and will therefore depend on how effectively they are applied and enforced. As a result, largely secondary effects are expected.
Positive effects on human health were identified as a result of adaptation to flood risk and from actions to minimise risks of reduced water quantity and quality. Adaptation to flood risk also has the benefits of reduced demands for repair and rebuild of buildings and infrastructure.
Potential secondary benefits may arise for biodiversity, soils, landscapes and heritage as a result of better water catchment and flood management planning in terms of reduced risk. However, the effects are to some extent uncertain at this stage and should be considered further within the SEA of subsequent flood risk and river basin management plans.
Consideration of Alternatives
As set out in Section 3.2, the only reasonable alternative to this plan would be continuation with the existing sector summary without the proposed amendments. The earlier plan included some, but not all of the actions in the revised plan. Specifically, the revised plan sets out greater detail on the issues of climate change and river basin management and the development of water management plans.
If this previous approach remained in place, some of the positive effects of the revised plan would not be realised, including increased positive effects though the promotion of effective climate change adaptation measures. The enhanced approach will potentially provide better protection for soils and biodiversity, more sustainable water use, and human health benefits through reduced risk of flooding and potential contamination of water courses. Environmental assessment of additional actions arising from further plans, such as river basin management plans, will be required.