Riverbed exposed as low rainfall empties the Water of Leith in Edinburgh

Only weeks ago parts of Edinburgh were hit by disastrous floods, now residents are shocked by the visible river bed in the Water of Leith.

Thursday, 5th August 2021, 4:45 pm
Updated Thursday, 5th August 2021, 9:04 pm

Let us know what you think and join the conversation at the bottom of this article.

Following weeks of warm weather and minimal rain in the capital, social media users were reporting the lowest water levels they’d ever seen in the river.

One Facebook user said: “It is a long time since I have seen the water so low in the river. Very little passing over Redbraes Weir and I can nearly see Anthony Gormley's feet!”

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Another remarked: “Don’t think I’ve seen the Water of Leith so low”.

On Twitter, a user shared a video with the caption: “Water levels in the #WaterofLeith #Edinburgh now so low that even a wagtail can go for a paddle without getting noticeably wet.”

Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) data suggests the water level at Murrayfield is at the low end of ‘normal’, sitting at 0.45 metres. The average level there is 0.52 metres, while the highest recorded level occurred in 2000 at over three metres. The water level is currently below average, but it is not quite the lowest on record at 0.33 metres at Murrayfield.

Drying out pools are a sign of the low level of water

Helen Brown, Trust Manager of the Water of Leith Conservation Trust said: “While the water levels are low, I cannot be sure that they are significantly lower than other recent summer conditions. In fact the lowest level at Colinton was 0.07 (metres) and today it is 0.150 (metres)

"The council’s flood prevention team monitor and regulate river flow via discharges from Harperrig Reservoir (approximately 29% of the Water of Leith catchment). The flow in the Bavelaw Burn is also regulated via discharges from Harlaw and Threipmuir Reservoirs. Currently a minimum compensation flow of 34.38 megalitres per day (as measured at Colinton) is maintained to replace the natural flow.”

The dry conditions have allowed a team of volunteers who work with the conservation trust to access parts of the river bed for cleaning that would otherwise be inaccessible. So far they have retrieved large amounts of scrap metal among other waste and have taken the opportunity to control weed growth along stretches of the river.

Some stretches have hardly any water

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.

The riverbed has been exposed
The Water of Leith is reduced to a trickle in some places