A blueprint to ensure Scottish Canals can respond to environmental and financial challenges in the next ten years has been launched.
The strategy will help the organisation ensure the canals act as catalysts for sustainable development in their communities.
It has been developed in partnership with, among others, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Scottish Natural Heritage.
Richard Millar, Scottish Canals director of heritage, enterprise and sustainability, said: “We are the guardians of a unique and precious blue and green corridor which is home to an incredible diversity of fauna and flora.
“These waterways are at the heart of many communities and we know how important they are to our staff, customers and partners.
“Climate change is happening and the nature of our network means it will be particularly exposed to extreme weather events.
“However, our new strategy will support us to mitigate the impact of climate change.”
Scottish Canals manages more than 80 different types of waste but recycles more than 90 per cent of it.
Almost 50 tonnes of rubbish was illegally dumped along its network in 2013/14, but the strategy includes measures for combating this.
Operating the 137 miles of its network presents Scottish Canals with a number of other, unique challenges.
The organisation’s work means it is potentially subject to more than 130 pieces of environmental legislation which apply to the canals and their towpaths, as well as the 3180 fixed assets it manages.
This includes 251 bridges, 212 buildings, 256 locks, The Falkirk Wheel and 19 water supply reservoirs in locations across Scotland.
The reservoirs cover an area equivalent to 7,494 football pitches and supply the canals with the 332 million litres of water which can flow through them each day.
Scottish Canals takes more than 10,500 measurements of water flows and levels each year to ensure the network operates smoothly and safely for a variety of activities undertaken by the 22 million people who visit annually.
The organisation is responsible to the Scottish Government for the management of five Scottish canals, their surrounding estate and The Falkirk Wheel.
Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Aileen McLeod said: “Scotland’s natural environment is vitally important and this should be recognised, particularly during a time when climate change is such a concern.
“There are challenges that need to be faced head on. So I congratulate Scottish Canals in taking the initiative to develop this strategy for the next ten years and beyond.”
The Forth & Clyde, Union and Monkland canals in the Lowlands, Crinan Canal in Argyll and the Caledonian Canal in the Highlands extend over 137 miles from coast to coast.