PROTECTING & IMPROVING THE TAY
WATER ABSTRACTION ON THE RIVER LOCHAY
SSE abstracts water from a number of headwater side burns along the River Lochay. In some burns, abstraction ceases at low flows but in most it does not.
SEPA had Lochay abstraction on a long to-do or to-be-considered list of water abstractions under the Water Framework Directive. But despite a visit several years ago, this initiative appears to have gone quiet.
The Lochay does not fit in with the usual criteria for considering a river to be over-abstracted. There is not, for example, a specific abstraction point that reduces the main river flow below the Q96 threshold level. Instead, there is always flow in the main stem of the Lochay and most of the time it is over a Q96.
But while this is not a situation like the Garry was, headwater abstraction may, in dry years, potentially still limit juvenile production in the main river. But, maybe even more importantly, it could impact on ascending adult salmon.
For example, at the end of June/early July 2018, flows were so low in the Lochay that there was not enough flow to fill the Borland lift during its filling cycle. This meant that any fish that entered the lift would have been lifted up and down over and over without ever getting out. Also, the pool below the lift, in which fish were trapped, would have been starved of flow during the filling cycle.
Water abstraction would have exacerbated that problem.
What is required on the Lochay is a mechanism whereby abstraction can be halted when flows get below a certain level. Permanent hands-off flows do not require to be reinstated, as in the Garry.
It is a priority of the Board’s, therefore, to maintain the profile of this issue and ensure it returns to SEPA’s review agenda.