Richard Brown is our Head of Hydrology and is also one of our Duty Hydrology Managers, which means you may have heard or seen him being interviewed on radio or television during flooding. Here he explains a bit more about himself and his roles.
What attracted you to working for SEPA?
At the inception of SEPA in 1996 I was one of those ‘inherited’ from the former Highland River Purification Board where I started 35 years ago. I had been brought up never very far away from water (Shetland, the Aberdeenshire Dee and the Angus coast) and did a lot of canoeing at university on Scottish rivers and further afield so, in retrospect, it was probably a natural progression to find a job linked to this watery theme . . . being paid to travel round the Highlands measuring rainfall and river flows seemed too good an opportunity to miss!
Over the years, despite changing jobs and inevitably doing less fieldwork, I have constantly been inspired by a deep underlying interest in what makes the Hydrology of Scotland tick and always encouraged by many talented colleagues with a great enthusiasm for their subject.
What kind of work are you involved in?
Although by nature happiest doing practical things, I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to manage Hydrology teams both in River Board and SEPA days. Currently my primary role is to head the Hydrology function of around 125 staff covering hydrometry, flood risk and water resources management. I am also part of the wider Science and Strategy management team and represent Hydrology on external bodies such as SAGA (despite my vintage, this actually stands for Surface And Groundwater Archives).
Although remaining based in Dingwall through a succession of roles, I now spend a lot of time at meetings mainly in Stirling and Perth. Sometimes I feel too far removed from the coal face so very much value re-connecting with colleagues in local Hydrology teams who I try and visit at least twice per year.
As part of my role I participate in the Hydrology Duty Manager rota and, during serious flooding, this can mean representing SEPA in Scottish Government Resilience meetings as well as providing media interviews and briefings for partners and colleagues.
What are your green credentials?
My job requires regular review of the most efficient way of delivering and expanding Hydrology services within reducing budgets and green goals are firmly embedded in this. Locally, I co-chair the very enthusiastic green group and lead the building energy management initiative in Dingwall. Direct involvement with planting trees, site litter picks, pond creation and energy monitoring all add interest and diversity to the ‘day job’.
The nature of my work still requires a certain amount of car travel but I much prefer to use the train for my regular trips South and during the last five years I have covered 55,000 miles by train over 408 separate trips compared to 30,000 miles by car. Unfortunately I spend rather too much time sitting at work so, although away from base a lot, I try and commute by bike when I can and have covered over 5,000 miles in the same period.
Away from work, we have planted around 1,500 trees around our home on the Black Isle and I find a lot of relaxation working our (mostly organic) garden which keeps us in fresh fruit and veg for much of the year. Having a dog means walking round the fields every morning before breakfast if I’m at home . . . not always an inviting prospect in these dark winter mornings.
What is your favourite Scottish environment?
I am constantly amazed by the diversity of landscapes and seascapes in a relatively small country like Scotland. Water is such a key element of these and we take it so easily for granted, until you visit countries which have very little. I have had a lifelong strong attachment to rural Angus but a particular attraction to the hills and beaches of Harris in the Western Isles. Walking the hills gives a tremendous sense of peace whilst kayaking and sailing round the wider West coast gives you great chances to absorb the scenery and see the wildlife close-up.