Diageo makes leap forward in Speyside river management

Lagavulin Distillery

Leading Scotch whisky distiller Diageo has raised the watermark for river management in the iconic whisky region of Speyside with the installation of a new weir and fish pass to boost the sustainability of salmon and trout stocks.

The new weir and fish pass in the river Dullan – part of the River Spey catchment that is so crucial to the Scotch whisky industry – is the result of a £550,000 investment by Diageo and was built in collaboration with the Spey Fishery Board.

The project, which has taken three and a half years to design and construct, replaces an outdated and damaged weir, and will significantly improve upstream biodiversity and increase the opportunity for spawning trout and salmon.

A similar, smaller scale project has also recently been completed on the Burn of Linkwood at Linkwood Distillery in Elgin, in the neighboring River Lossie catchment.

Diageo’s Mortlach Distillery and Dufftown Distillery currently use water from the river Dullan for cooling in the distilling process, but the weir will bring environmental benefits to the whole Spey water catchment area which is home to 11 Diageo single malt distilleries.

Lee Oliver, Environment Manager at Diageo, said: “The design of the new fish pass is a vast improvement on the old, damaged weir at Dufftown and takes into account free passage for all fish species as well as different flow conditions.

“We have worked closely with the Spey Fishery Board to develop a weir system that will benefit all river users and in turn the local community. I am delighted to see the project complete and look forward to monitoring the results on fish populations over the next few years.”

Spey Fishery Board has supported the project throughout the design and installation process. The team has shown its support for the new pass and has already noted an increase in spawning salmonids.

Brian Shaw, Senior Biologist at Spey Fishery Board, said: “The Spey Fishery Board was delighted to be able to work with Diageo, and their team, to bring about this inspiring renovation of the weir and fish pass. We like it. More importantly, so do the fish! The number of spawning redds counted above the weir last autumn was the highest we have recorded.

The fish pass allows a range of species to migrate upstream, and downstream, including eels and represents the “Gold standard” for fish passage in the catchment. We look forward to the Dullan Water fulfilling its potential to become one of the most productive rivers in the Spey catchment.”

Diageo is a longstanding supporter of the Spey Catchment Initiative, a local stakeholder partnership which works to protect and enhance the environment in the Speyside area.

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Diageo in Scotland is working to achieve its Alliance for water Stewardship certification for its 11 distilling sites within the Spey catchment, which recognises a global ambition to nurture and respect the social, cultural, environmental and economic value of freshwater.

In addition to the work in Speyside, Diageo plans to develop its programme of fish pass improvements at its Glen Ord distillery near Inverness later this year.

The river management project are part of Diageo’s global commitment to water stewardship and sustainability. The company recently announced of its Society 2030: Spirit of Progress sustainability plan for a decade of action to tackle climate change, which includes ambitious environmental goals, including being net zero emissions from all direct operations by 2030.

Read more about Diageo’s sustainability commitments here.