SEPA project: “Pharmaceuticals in the Water Environment” data visualisation tool (2021-22)

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and the OHBP contributed to a collaborative project to develop an open-access data visualisation tool to help researchers better understand the effects pharmaceuticals have on Scotland’s water environment. The tool was launched in June 2022

Pharmaceuticals in the Environment (‘ is the first open-access interactive tool in the UK to combine national environmental and community prescribing data on pharmaceuticals. It is designed to help researchers, academics, health professionals and environmental scientists develop a better understanding of the link between medicine use and the presence of pharmaceuticals in the environment.

The data tool leads on from the Centre of Expertise for Waters (CREW) project for the OHBP which published a national database of pharmaceuticals detected in Scotland’s water: ‘Pharmaceuticals in the water environment: baseline assessment and recommendations’. The project combined and assessed published and unpublished academic data with monitoring data from Scottish Water and SEPA. These environmental data have been used to develop the data visualisation tool, alongside primary care (community) prescribing data from Public Health Scotland.

It is anticipated that this tool will be essential for analysing information and making data-driven decisions to inform the development of substance specific and location specific interventions to reduce environmental and human health risks, such as Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR). Future interventions will target medicines which pose the highest environmental risk, giving prescribers and patients more information on the environmental effects of medicines. A key part of reducing the quantity of pharmaceuticals that enter sewerage systems is through educating people about the possible environmental effects of what they stock in their medicine cabinet and encouraging them to return unused medicines to pharmacies for proper disposal.

Tool available here: Pharmaceuticals in the Environment (

See related press release: New data tool launched to help researchers understand the effects human medicines have on Scotland’s environment | Media | Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)