Improving Water Quality

Buffer Strips

A water margin (or buffer strip) is a vegetated area near a stream which helps to protect a watercourse from the impact of adjacent activities. Buffer strips play an important role in protecting water quality and have become standard frontline protection for watercourses. Buffer strips have been widely created, with a rolling programme to increase coverage year on year. We estimate that there are now over 300km in the Dee catchment. A combination of funding secured through SRDP and the EU LIFE Pearls in Peril project created over 45km of water margins in the middle catchment, including some 10m wide examples on the Tarland Burn.

Creating buffer strips by fencing of the riverbank is a well-established technique, but they are developing into more sophisticated water treatment systems. The James Hutton Instute is trialling new 'Intelligent' or 'BufferTech' water margins that intercept and treat the runoff from field drains and provide biomass from vegetation growth. Water margins provide valuable protection from a wide range of impacts other than farming. We have pioneered their use to protect watercourses from the impact of development and this approach has been adopted as Supplementary Planning Guidance in Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Councils.

Past Projects

The 3 Dee Vision Project carried out water quality, flood protection and biodiversity improvement works in three sub-catchments of the River Dee, with a strong focus on stakeholder engagement. The Elrick catchment had SuDS wetland implemented; the Loch Davan catchment received measures to protect watercourses from livestock; and the Tarland catchment saw the creation of 3 wetlands. The pilots helped to implement the actions of the Water Framework Directive and further improve the quality of the River Dee. Through engagement with the local community, the project raised awareness of the river environment (Dee Riverbank boxes and Tarland Mural) and encouraged good environmental practise amongst those living and working in Deeside. The 3 Dee Vision Project was part of the NOLIMP Water Framework Directive Project and was funded by the European Interreg IIIB North Sea Programme. More information can be found here.

The Aquarius project was a pilot of an EU programme (Farmers as water managers in the North Sea region) which worked in 6 countries around the North Sea, tasked with finding and implementing “sustainable, integrated land-water management through engaging with local farmers. Tarland was selected as the project area, where farmers were asked through a series of questionnaires and workshops, about there feelings on being water managers and practical ways to reduce flood risk. Extensive modelling of the area was conducted and wetland storage areas were suggested, however these were not taken forward due to more evidence being needed on their impacts. Further information can be found here.