Release the Spey: Reduce Water Abstraction

Release the Spey: Reduce Water Abstraction

1,782 have signed. Let’s get to 2,500!
Petition to
The Scottish Government

Why this petition matters

Started by Spey Fishery Board

The problem: 

There are 51 sites across the River Spey catchment where water is taken from the River Spey and its tributaries. These sites, which are licensed by SEPA, include distilleries, public water supplies, agricultural water supplies and water diversions to generate hydroelectricity. The latter can alter the watercourse, dam the river and transfer significant volumes of water OUT of the Spey catchment – removing it as an essential resource to the river.

Of all the water abstracted from the Spey, 91% of it is taken from the top 13% of the catchment:

  • 66% is licensed to be diverted from Spey Dam near Laggan, to Fort William, to generate hydroelectricity to power GFG’s aluminium smelter.
  • 25% is diverted as part of Scottish & Southern Energy’s Tummel Valley Scheme, where it goes into the Tay catchment to generate hydroelectricity.

Whereas distilleries borrow the water for cooling purposes, before returning it to the rivers, these hydro schemes transfer large amounts of water OUT of the Spey catchment, never to be returned. These schemes can reduce the natural flow in the Spey by up to 24% at Boat o’ Brig near Fochabers, and by up to a massive 61% at Kingussie.

The impact:

The most significant impact of these hydroelectricity schemes, over the eight decades they have been in place, is that they have reduced the amount of water being added to the water table surrounding the River Spey. This water, stored in the ground (groundwater), is essential for topping up the river and sustaining it through dry periods when there are low flows. The lack of groundwater has had a devastating impact on the ecology of the river and the rich natural diversity it supports. 

Other impacts include:

  1. The River Spey’s resilience to the ravages of climate change has been reduced.
  2. A reduction of the wetted area within the Spey catchment, meaning less available habitat to support wildlife.
  3. A lower resilience of the river to pollution events due to less water leads to higher concentrations of pollutants. The solution to pollution is dilution!
  4. The river will be more susceptible to temperature fluctuations. Higher temperatures, which we are seeing more and more as the effects of climate change become apparent, can be fatal to salmon and many other river species.
  5. Dams can also reduce the transfer of sediment and gravel – a vital natural river process that is essential for the creation of suitable salmon spawning habitat.

The solution:

It's simple. We think water from rainfall and snow that falls in the Spey catchment, should stay in the Spey catchment. 

In an ideal world, we would love to remove all dams on the River Spey and its tributaries. 

However, we are aware that in the short-medium term, this is unlikely and unrealistic. Therefore, in the short term we are calling for the following actions to be taken:

  1. Release water into the River Mashie. Re-watering this important tributary will help mitigate the impact of water taken from Spey Dam and create additional spawning habitats for salmon and sea trout.
  2. Release water down the River Cuaich and Allt Bhran, near Dalwhinnie, to help mitigate SSE’s diversion of water from the Rivers Tromie and Truim.
  3. Putting water down the Allt an t’Sluie at Dalwhinnie, would almost completely off-set Scottish Water’s abstraction at the Dipple Wellfield near Fochabers. 

Releasing water down these tributaries at the top of the catchment, rather than diverting it out of the catchment to generate hydroelectricity, will benefit the whole of the Spey catchment. In particular, it will make the River Spey more sustainable and help it to become resilient to the climate and biodiversity crises confronting us all.

We need your support so that we can prove that people care about the River Spey, raise awareness of this critical issue and convince the Scottish Government, SEPA and the hydroelectric companies to take action to save the River Spey. 

Please sign our petition

Thank you,

Spey Fishery Board

1,782 have signed. Let’s get to 2,500!