OR/15/028 Summary

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Ó Dochartaigh, B É, MacDonald, A M, Fitzsimons, V, and Ward, R. 2015. Scotland’s aquifers and groundwater bodies . British Geological Survey Internal Report, OR/15/028.

Scotland’s groundwater is a highly valuable resource. The volume of groundwater is greater than the water found in our rivers and lochs, but is hidden from sight beneath our feet. Groundwater underpins Scotland’s private drinking water supplies and provides reliable strategic public water supply to many rural towns; it also sustains the bottled water and whisky industries and is relied upon for irrigation by many farmers. Groundwater also provides many important environmental functions, providing at least 30% of the flow in most Scottish rivers, and maintaining many precious ecosystems.

Groundwater management in Scotland is delivered primarily through the River Basin Management framework. Groundwater bodies are a key component of this, defining areas of groundwater that behave in a similar way, both naturally and in response to pressures from human activity. Groundwater bodies provide a risk-based framework for prioritising action to remediate problems, and preventing new problems.

Scottish groundwater bodies have undergone a major review for the second River Basin Management cycle, using the latest geological information from the British Geological Survey (BGS), and improved experience of groundwater management from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). A key new development is the separation of groundwater bodies into two layers: a shallow layer of superficial groundwater bodies, and a deep layer of bedrock groundwater bodies. This is important in order to help target action. Shallow groundwater bodies are more at risk from activities such as agriculture, whilst deeper bodies are more at risk from activities such as mining.

This report provides a summary of the results of the review, which has been a collaborative project by BGS and SEPA. It documents the process of how the groundwater bodies and aquifers of Scotland were defined, and describes the hydrogeology of each of the main aquifers. The report can therefore be used as a technical introduction to the hydrogeology of Scotland. The two maps overleaf illustrate Scotland’s aquifers and the latest iteration of groundwater bodies as developed during this project.

Groundwater in Scotland is widely used for many purposes.
Scotland’s aquifers and groundwater bodies: deep bedrock (main map) and shallow superficial (inset). Contains OS data © Crown Copyright and database rights [2015].