History of the Pow

The Pow of Inchaffray (also known as the Pow Water) is a drainage ditch in Strathearn, Scotland which covers approximately 9 miles (14 km) and drains 3.2 square miles (8.3 km2) of fertile agricultural land.

The Pow dates back to the Middle Ages and was dug on the orders of the canons of the nearby Inchaffray Abbey; it was expanded under permissions granted by Robert the Bruce. A drainage commission became responsible for the Pow in 1696 under an act of the Parliament of Scotland. This body, the only local drainage commission in Scotland, continues to maintain the Pow and collect revenue from local landowners and householders. A modernised act to govern the commission was passed in January 2019.

The Pow starts at Methven Moss and runs in a south-westerly direction for 9 miles (14 km) until it meets the River Earn near to Innerpeffray, about 2.5 miles (4.0 km) to the south-east of Crieff. The Pow’s drainage basin is 2,047 acres (828 ha) which includes 79 residential properties, 21 agricultural properties and 2 commercial properties.  It has ten major tributaries which total approximately 4.7 miles (7.6 km) of watercourse.

Pow is a Scots term that dates to the Early Middle Ages and means an artificial ditch. The Pow was first dug on the orders of the canons of the Augustinian Inchaffray Abbey. The abbey, one of the largest in Scotland at the time, was located on an island in marshland and the Pow was intended to help drain the surroundings.  The abbey went into decline after the reformation and was gradually abandoned despite this the Pow remained in use.

In 1696 the Pow was brought under the formal management of a drainage commission (similar to drainage boards in England and Wales) by the “Act in favour of Sir Robert Murray of Abercairney and other heritors upon the Pow of Inchaffray” passed by the Parliament of Scotland.  The commission was empowered by the act to tax heritors, those landowners that benefited from the Pow, for the maintenance and improvement of the ditch. This act was repealed and replaced by an 1846 act (the “Pow of Inchaffray Drainage Act 1846”) of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which included measures for the construction of new flood defenses.

A private bill, aimed at establishing the commissioners as a body to take into account changes in the size of the drainage basin and to the number of heritors, was submitted to the Scottish Parliament by the drainage commissioners in March 2017 to replace the 1846 act. It received royal assent as the “Pow of Inchaffray Drainage Commission (Scotland) Act 2019” on 17 January 2019.

The Pow drainage commission remains the only local drainage commission in Scotland. It is responsible for some of the country’s most fertile agricultural land and has also worked to allow residential development to take place on part of the drainage basin. The Pow has a population of non-native beavers and the commissioners have been in discussion with Scottish Natural Heritage to carry out a trial of beaver-proof fencing and water-gates.

The 2019 Pow Act and Guide downloads