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River Tweed Commission Welcomes Abstraction License Suspension

The River Tweed Commission has welcomed SEPA’s decision to suspend abstraction licences within the River Tweed catchment from 23.59 on Thursday 18 August.

A lack of rainfall in recent months has meant that parts of the River Tweed catchment reached Significant Scarcity last week – the highest category for water scarcity defined by SEPA. Recent rainfall has not been sufficient to reverse the current situation, which has been building up over a long period of time. The long-term forecast is for a return to dry conditions.

The combination of very low river flows and high temperatures in the river can lead to the death of fish, invertebrates and plants. While some parts of the river ecology can recover quickly, others such as Atlantic Salmon populations can take years to recover. The River Tweed is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and in addition to its environmental importance, it is estimated that fishing on the Tweed brings in around £24 million to the local economy each year and supports over 500 jobs.

Jamie Stewart, Clerk to the River Tweed Commission said:

“Climate change is already leading to significant variations in weather patterns with drier summers and wetter winters predicted to continue. While the River Tweed Commission welcomes the suspension announcement from SEPA, we believe that the current water scarcity plans are inadequate to protect fish stocks both in the short and longer term. We are deeply concerned at the significant problems being created by low water levels and high temperatures for Atlantic Salmon, sea and brown trout and are raising these concerns with SEPA and The Scottish Government in order to encourage a review of the system allowing the damaging extraction of water from the river by industry and agriculture during prolonged dry conditions.”

According to SEPA, the temporary suspensions affect around 30 licence holders, predominantly within the agriculture sector and aim to allow water levels to recover and minimise potential long-term harm to the environment. The abstractors affected will receive suspension notices, which will be lifted as soon as possible.

The suspensions are part of Scotland’s National Water Scarcity Plan, which is designed to ensure the correct balance is struck between protecting the environment and providing resource for human and economic activity during prolonged dry periods. The plan clearly sets out what actions SEPA and abstractors are required to take at each stage of water scarcity.

Last week in the Tweed catchment Mouthbridge at Blackadder Water dropped to its lowest flow since records began in 1974. Lyne Station recorded its fourth lowest flow in 53 years, only 2003 was lower.

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