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6 September 2016

West Lothian loch is the focus of new management group

Public bodies committed to tackling challenges facing Linlithgow Loch

Linlothgow Loch with pier, and surrounding grass land and farms

A new group charged with tackling the challenges, including the current water quality issues, at Linlithgow Loch met for the first time, last week.

Key partners including Historic Environment Scotland, Scottish Water, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Scottish Natural Heritage, West Lothian Council, Scottish Government, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and the local community representatives – known collectively as the Strategic Management Group – came together to set out a clear action plan for working together on a long-term achievable and sustainable solution and joint-management plan to address the West Lothian loch’s water quality.

Dr David Mitchell, Acting Chief Executive of Historic Environment Scotland, and Chair of the first Strategic Management Group meeting, said: “The water quality issues at Linlithgow Loch are complex and will take a considerable time to address.

To achieve that we are fortunate to have a number of specialists and experts on board, many of whom have tackled similar challenges at other locations.

“We are well aware of the challenges as well as the loch’s importance as a community asset, and all of the organisations in the Strategic Management Group are committed to finding a long term solution. I hope that the public will understand that whilst we are committed to addressing this challenge there is no ‘quick fix’, however, what we are doing is collectively putting actions and measures in place that will help us identify and help mitigate against issues affecting the loch and the surrounding areas.”

Linlithgow Loch, like many bodies of water, is subject to recurring Blue-Green Algal blooms. The algae, which can release toxins, is often found in freshwater lakes, streams, ponds and other water ecosystems. A regular sample and testing programme to monitor the loch’s water quality and condition is already in place; as part of the on-going water monitoring, advisory signs around the loch are updated regularly to highlight the presence and toxicity of blooms.

The task force’s first priority is to understand where and how the nutrients, which cause the algal bloom, enter the loch and what material remains from the loch’s historical uses. To achieve this, a ‘source apportionment’ study will begin at the start of January 2017 and take place over the course of a year. The study, which will be resourced by Historic Environment Scotland, in conjunction with the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and supported by partners, will involve water sampling from a number of different locations within the catchment and loch. It is hoped the information gathered through this process will help inform how the challenges can be addressed and managed in the future.

Building on the work of the Loch Catchment Management Group over the last 10 years, a sub working group has been established to look at water quality monitoring practices and techniques. Whilst a second sub working group will be formed to explore the potential learning and engagement opportunities arising from this work, to ensure that stakeholders are kept informed of progress.

The Strategic Management Group will next come together in November to agree the overarching approach for the source apportionment study.

About Historic Environment Scotland (HES)

  • As of the 1st October 2015, Historic Scotland and RCAHMS came together to form a new lead public body charged with caring for, protecting and promoting the historic environment. The new body Historic Environment Scotland (HES) will lead on delivering Scotland’s first strategy for the historic environment, Our Place in Time.
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