Speyside Distillery Groundwater Supply

Location: Speyside, Scotland                                                    Client: Gordon & McPhail Distillery


Gordon & MacPhails new Speyside distillery, The Cairn, required a supply of cooling water and JBA was asked to assist with developing and licensing an array of groundwater abstraction boreholes to meet this need. Careful design was required in order to achieve the abstraction whilst promoting environmental best practice. 


JBA successfully coordinated the feasibility assessment, design and construction, testing and licensing of the groundwater abstraction boreholes at The Cairn. While the specific solution to achieving this varies by site, the following key tasks undertaken at the Speyside distillery are detailed below. 

  • Feasibility assessment – a detailed conceptual hydrogeological understanding was developed to gauge suitability of the underlying glaciofluvial aquifer (sands and gravels) as a water resource. All available local borehole records and details of other abstractions in the region were utilised to form a professional opinion on borehole feasibility. 
  • Design and construction – the array comprised three boreholes drilled to specific depths sufficient to abstract the desired volume of groundwater. The boreholes were constructed with screened steel casing throughout the permeable glaciofluvial layer in order to maximise yield, with solid casing at the base and top. The annulus was finished with gravel pack, with cement grout close to ground surface to prevent ingress of water from infiltration. 
  • Test pumping and analysis – including pre-test monitoring, step-tests and constant rate tests, and recovery tests. Positive results supported the abstraction licence application to demonstrate robust indications of the long-term yield. The pumping tests had to conform to the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency’s (SEPA’s) regulatory requirements and relevant British Standards. 
  • Licensing – the WAT-RM-11 regulatory method sets out the SEPA process for determining groundwater abstraction licence applications under the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011 (CAR)). The method requires certain tests to be met, including: surface water flow impact test (assessing the effect on the nearest watercourse); adequate resource test (availability of the water in the groundwater body); a water features survey (to assess whether other nearby sensitive receptors are likely to be affected); and water efficiency measures. A CAR complex licence was also required due to the large abstraction rate.  

Speyside Distillery Groundwater Supply


Work was carefully planned in terms of the materials and drilling technique used to avoid impact on other water users as well as designated ecological features in the adjacent River Spey. Due to the location of the boreholes close to the river, although the abstraction is nominally from the sands and gravels, the water source is in fact indirectly from the river. Impacts on river flows are negligible due to the very small proportion of river flows during dry conditions that the abstraction represents. In addition, by using boreholes to abstract the water, the risks from a direct surface water intake, regarding disturbance of sediment in the river, are negated. 

Our understanding of the hydrogeological and regulatory processes and their challenges has resulted in confirmation from SEPA that the abstraction licence application has been approved.  The distillery now benefits from the required sustainable and licensed groundwater supply which has negated the need to mitigate against potential impacts that may have arisen from an alternative surface water supply.

Want to know more?

For more information about groundwater supply projects please contact Eleanor Williams.

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