Water scarcity levels in Scotland have worsened after a period of hot weather, despite heavy thundery showers across the country.
Part of the River Esk area in Dumfries and Galloway is the second in Scotland to reach the highest water scarcity level in the most recent report published by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).
It joins Loch Maree in the Highlands, which remains at significant for a third week.
Thunderstorms have led to some very localised recovery of rivers and groundwater, but have not been enough to sufficiently replenish levels and conditions continue to get worse, the environmental agency said.
The Conon river area in the Highlands and the Outer Hebrides has now been escalated to moderate scarcity, where the southwest and much of central Scotland remain.
SEPA warned that without further rainfall, these areas risk reaching significant while the rest of the country is in alert level.
Authorised water abstractors in Loch Maree and River Esk areas already have conditions as part of their permits to protect the environment against low river flows, and no additional restrictions are required by SEPA.
However, as further areas reach significant water scarcity, action will be required to protect the sustainability of local water environments.
SEPA said that it understands the impacts on businesses facing these challenging conditions and is working to avoid full suspensions on abstractions; where possible, measures to significantly reduce the volume of water taken from rivers and lochs will be implemented.
Head of water and planning at SEPA, Nathan Critchlow-Watton said: “We know the pressures facing Scottish businesses right now, including Scotland’s farmers, and the importance of the food and drink they produce. That’s why we’re determined to protect our environment whilst supporting Scotland during prolonged dry periods such as this.
“Our approach is proportionate, aiming to help those businesses using the least water and whose activities are most efficient to continue operating.
“This is a temporary position, recognising the impact suspensions can have on businesses, but it’s important abstractors understand the need to work with us now and in future years to adapt to water scarcity.”