Groundwater is an important, but undervalued, national resource in Scotland. Groundwater is present both in the bedrock, where much of the flow is through fractures, and in the superficial deposits, where intergranular flow dominates. The most productive bedrock aquifers are the Permian sandstones and breccia in SW Scotland and the Devonian sandstones in Fife, Strathmore and Morayshire. Alluvium and fluvio-glacial sands and gravels can also form important aquifers and provide some of Scotland’s most highly yielding boreholes. Groundwater is generally weakly mineralized with total dissolved solids in the range 100 to 500 mg l−1 and is dominated by Ca and HCO3 type waters.
There are in excess of 4000 boreholes in Scotland, and over 20 000 springs and wells used for private water supply. There are few available reliable data on the total volumes of groundwater abstracted; however, conservative estimates suggest that the total volume is approximately 330 megalitres per day for public water supply, industry, agriculture and private water supply. The volume of groundwater used in public water supply is growing annually; it is currently 7% of the daily 2400 megalitres per day supplied by Scottish Water. Scottish groundwater is under threat from agricultural activity, the mining legacy, septic tanks, localized high abstraction, and general land development. The implementation of the Water Framework Directive, and associated legislation, is an excellent opportunity to sustainably manage and develop groundwater in Scotland.