MSc Aquatic Ecosystem Management 2004



Sustainable Catchment Management: comparing urbanised with semi-pristine catchments

Site Pictures 1: Almond Catchment

Click on the thumbnails for a full-scale picture

The river Almond rises in the hills near Harthill in Lanarkshire and flows into the sea at Cramond, Edinburgh, but most of its catchment lies within West Lothian.

Map after the River Almond Catchment Partnership

West Lothian has a long history of industrial activity which cause problems for catchment management.

Pumpherston was the birthplace of the oil shale industry ("Paraffin Young" etc.) which was the precursor of today's oil industry. Paraffin oil was distilled by heating shale, and the spent shale was piled into bings, some of which still stand, as they are now considered part of West Lothian's industrial heritage; indeed they are commemorated in a landscape sculpture which stands by the M8 motorway at Bathgate. Shale bings are red in colour, in contrast to coal bings, which have not been heated. Shale distillation produced not only the light, volatile paraffin oil which revolutionised peoples lives, freeing them from using smelly and smoky fish oil lamps, until gas replaced it, but also waxy products, used for candles and other uses. Some of these heavier hydrocarbons still persist in the locality, and can leach into surface drains.


West Lothian also had a large deep coal mining industry until very recently, and the abandoned pits cause problems as water levels rise within them: the water which is discharged is laden with iron and sulphur, as the iron pyrites ("fool's gold") so common in coal seams oxidise to produce sulphuric acid. The iron precipitates out of solution on contact with air, leading to deposits of ochre which can smother benthic animals in streams.

Iron smelting was also carried out within the catchment.

Bings can be unstable structures, as they are usually composed of quite small particles, which can become waterlogged and turn to mud. Bings can be stabilised by planting with vegetation, and the more deeply rooting the better. Some trees are better than others at surviving the harsh environment of a bing.

The water quality of the Almond is protected by treating sources of pollution from defunct industries, and by treating discharges of domestic sewage in treatment works. Older urban drainage systems combined both wastewater and surface drainage from roofs, roads, etc., which can lead to overloading of the sewerage system at times of high rainfall, necessitating the use of storm tanks, and leading to very spatey river flows. A recent development is Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS) in which surface drainage is separated from wastewater at source, and treated in ponds to remove the usually slight pollution while being allowed to seep slowly into the soil.

Benhaar Bing




 The bing at Benhaar is being remediated by tree planting
 drainage from the bing is collected in ponds



Ferruginous deposits are present 



Sampled 5/5/04:
top end of pond:
 pH=2.7 conductivity 1156µS
DO 95.5% @12.6C

bottom end of pond:
 pH=2.9 conductivity 944 µS
DO 88.5% @13.1C

The conditions (pH=2.7) suit the flagellate alga Euglena
Reedbed treatment of contaminated water



Reedbeds treating wastewater at the former Young's Detergents, Pumpherston, now turned into a golf course
The reed beds are apparently haunted by a headless sampler




Pond pH= 7.1

Conductivity 537µS cm-1

 Ponds for treating runoff




 SUDS ponds at Houston
 These treat contaminated  surface water draining a former industrial site
Sampling pipes are inserted at intervals in the site




Sampled 6/5/04:
pond pH = 7.5, conductivity 424µS,
pond DO 97.4% @ 11.8°C
outflow DO 72.6% @ 10.8°C

drainage enters the pond via a pipe at this end
the surface has unsightly floating scum and an oily film
The pond outflow discharges via a small burn
Using a simple extraction procedure and concentration by evaporation, a range of hydrocarbons was detected by GCMS
Treatment of mine drainage




Location of Polkemmet mine treatment  works
Acid mine drainage from the former Polkemmet colliery
  is treated in a series of ponds: hydrogen peroxide is added to rapidly oxygenate the water
Polymer is added to cause the iron oxide to flocculate and aid precipitation




 Deposits of red ochre (iron hydroxide) can be seen at the edge.
Sludge is periodically dredged from the ponds and left to drain and dry in a separate lagoon
The water receives a final treatment in a reedbed,
before being discharged to the Cultrig burn, at the far end in this picture.




Sampling the outflow
Ferruginous deposits are present at all stages
The treated effluent is discharged into the Cultrig burn
  Sampled 5th May 2004:  
  pH conductivity µS cm-1 DO % saturation temp °C Fe
Mine discharge:           
Pond 1: 6.9 2330 54 17  
Pond 2: 7.1 2540 76 17  
reedbed outflow 7.7 2540 -     
Cultrig upstream: 6.5 240 83 9  
Cultrig downstream: 
SUDS systems at J4M8




J4M8 is a modern industrial estate at junction 4 of the M8 motorway.
Surface drainage is treated by SUDS
These consist of grassed swales which can collect excess rainwater
This can slowly percolate in to the soil: contaminants are removed, sudden discharges to streams are avoided, and groundwater recharge can occur





Ponds are also used to treat the water.
A series of ponds gradually improves the water quality
The ponds are planted to make them into an attractive feature
River Almond
 Drainage from all these treatment plants, plus several sewage treatment plants, ultimately discharges into the river Almond. Samples were taken at a relatively unimpacted tributary, then upstream and downstream of the East Calder WWTW, and finally near the mouth at Cramond

Sampling the Bog Burn
The river Almond at Pottishaw
Sampling in deep water: ther had been quite a lot of rain previously
Almond upstream of East Calder WWTW

Discharge from East Calder WWTW: the volume of discharge makes up a sizeable proportion of the river's flow in summer.
We've been here before! Fishing for stones makes a change, though: quite difficult in spatey conditions.
Sawbill ducks appear to like the conditions
Sampling does take it out of you!
Go to Creran catchment: river Creran or Loch Creran