A screening tool to characterise diffuse water pollution pressures

Posted: Wednesday 13th June 2012

Working with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Scottish Government, ADAS was charged with the development of a screening tool for use in the identification of diffuse pollution pressures placing water bodies at risk of not reaching Water Framework Objectives. This work was funded by SNIFFER, the Scotland and Northern Ireland Forum for Environmental Research.


To develop a model based tool to assist SEPA in meeting objectives under the Water Framework Directive.


The GIS based screening tool was developed in three distinct stages.

Spatial Environmental Database - Compilation of a comprehensive database including information on soils, climate, land use and infrastructure. This was a significant undertaking, and included catchment data on more than 14,500 individual lochs and rivers in Scotland alone.

Simulation Models Identification of simulation models for all diffuse pollutants (nutrients, sediment, pesticides, pathogens, priority substances, metals and organics) from all sectors, appropriate for use at both catchment and national scale. A suite of modelling techniques were employed to provide spatial indicators of pollutant load entering watercourses and leaching to groundwater.

Model Calibration Risk Assessment Calibrated model outputs were used to predict water quality providing data support for the targeting of future monitoring, research and remediation planning.


The development of an important screening tool which, using a model based approach, allows quantification of diffuse pollution pressures from a variety of sources including farming, forestry and urban run off. The results are currently assisting SEPA to meet Water Framework Directive objectives, by targeting risk areas for control measures in line with the principles of Better Regulation.

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