It is vital that forests have good quality water, so that the forest itself is healthy and resilient and so that it also contributes to a healthy and resilient catchment and landscape. The consequences of poor water management will be felt both in the forest and possibly downstream too.

Good water management

In Scotland there is legislation to secure good water management - for example on controlled activities near water and the protection of private water supplies. These legal requirements are reflected in the UK Forestry Standard. Forest managers must follow this to receive approval and grant aid from us.

The UK Forestry Standard chapter on water offers explanation and guidance on good practice water management. Further resources, including videos, to help forest owners, managers and practitioners follow good forestry practice to improve water management are available through the Forestry & Water Scotland initiative. Forest managers may also wish to read about research on good water management by Forest Research.

We work closely with partners such as SEPA and Scottish Natural Heritage to improve the water environment by, for example, encouraging the removal of non-native conifer stands that are planted too close to a watercourse, supporting the removal fish barriers in salmon rivers, and advising on how to protect Groundwater Dependent Terrestrial Ecosystems. Relevant support is available under the Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP).

Using forests to help manage flood risk    

A sustainable approach to managing flood risk needs to integrate traditional engineering with techniques that work with natural features and characteristics - called Natural Flood Management (NFM) techniques. These techniques aim to store or slow down flood water, using measures such as planting woodlands, creating wetlands and restoring rivers. NFM measures also bring additional benefits to biodiversity, water quality and recreation. The UK Forestry Standard reflects this in a new requirement.

However, it is important to understand that while under the right conditions forests and woodlands can contribute to managing flood risk, they cannot stop a flood event. There are more details about woodlands as a flood risk management measure in SEPA’s Natural Flood Management Handbook and Forest Research’s web page on forestry and flooding.

To make sure the role of forests is recognised in national and local flood risk management plans we work with partners such as SEPA and the local flood prevention authorities. Relevant forestry grant support is available under the Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP).