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Reducing contamination in water courses

Option closed to new applications


Inadequate facilities for the treatment of sewage in rural areas can result in the bacterial contamination of watercourses, lochs and coastal waters. This in turn can result in hazards to human health through contamination of areas used for growing shellfish for human consumption or areas designated as bathing waters. Inadequately treated sewage may also cause organic pollution or damage the amenity of our rural landscape.

There is an obligation to achieve compliance with the bacterial standards established in the Shellfish Water and the Bathing Waters Directives. The Scottish Government needs to improve the water environment to achieve and maintain good water status, objectives of these Directives and of the Water Framework Directive (WFD).

What will this achieve?

  • improve facilities for the treatment of sewage in rural areas
  • reduce bacterial contamination in watercourses, lochs and coastal waters.

What you can do?

Provision of additional sewage treatment facilities to reduce or eliminate microbiological content of effluents. It may involve biological filtration and/or ultraviolet light disinfection plant or reed bed treatment of septic tanks outflows.

The degree of additional treatment will be determined on a site-specific basis.

The site is likely to be a priority where SEPA identifies that a septic tank has a significant impact on a protected area, such as that drained to a designated shellfish-growing water or bathing water, especially where the key water parameter is microbiological quality.

Who can apply?

Anyone responsible for the provision or maintenance of sewage treatment facilities, including septic tanks, in the area of Scotland covered by the SRDP.

Eligibility criteria

  1. The applicant must have an existing septic tank or other sewage treatment system that meets basic environmental protection criteria, as confirmed by SEPA.
  2. SEPA confirms that this discharge is in need of additional (secondary or tertiary) treatment in order to meet the microbiological objectives of downstream WFD protected areas, established through the standards of the Shellfish and Bathing Waters Directives. Protection of areas from which drinking water may be drawn may also be a priority.

What costs could be supported?

50% funding of capital costs, up to a ceiling of eligible costs of £8,000.

A collaborative approach should be encouraged, where practicable; one septic tank may serve several houses and there may be several septic tanks in a priority catchment. It is likely that action on several sites within a catchment will produce the desired level of improvement. Where appropriate, sufficient numbers of individual septic tanks will need to be involved; similarly, community septic tanks will require the agreement of the local community to succeed.

This Option may involve one or more capital expenditures that will help protect the water environment, for example:

  • reed beds or other biological filtration systems
  • establishment of disinfection processes, including ultraviolet light and dosing methods.

To ensure value for money we require you to provide 2 competitive quotes for any capital items applied for which are based on actual cost. If, however, you are seeking grant support towards something so specialised it is only available through 1 source then we would accept 1 quote. Please see the guidance on quotes and estimates for more information.

Rate of support?

50% funding of capital costs


Will be subject to inspection and verification by staff, normally Area Office staff of the Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate (SGRPID), with prior consultation with locally based SEPA staff.

The effectiveness of the option may need to be confirmed by laboratory analysis of effluent samples.

List of links to relevant technical guidance

  • The Water Framework Directive (WFD) (Directive 2000/60/EC)
  • The Shellfish Waters Directive (2006/113/EC) and the Surface Waters (Shellfish) (Classification) (Scotland) Regulations 2007
  • The Bathing Water Directive (76/160/EEC) and the Bathing Water Directive (2006/7/EC)