Water scarcity warnings have been issued across every part of Scotland for the first time this year as the country continues to deal with hot and dry weather.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) said isolated thunderstorms have done little to alleviate the country’s lochs and rivers from rapidly drying.
The agency has now forecast that a third of areas in Scotland will be at a significant water scarcity level by June 30 if there is no recovery in river levels.
The Loch Maree area reached a significant warning for water scarcity last week, the highest risk level, and remains there this week.
The Ness area also remains at moderate scarcity, the second highest level, and is joined by the Inner Hebrides, parts of the central belt and the whole of the south west.
The rest of Scotland is on alert, with the exception of the Shetland Islands which has been given an early warning.
The hot, dry weather is expected to continue into late June and early July, with any further short periods of intense rain unlikely to help water levels recover to normal levels, SEPA said.
It follows a drier-than-average winter, with a particularly dry May when Scotland saw just 44% of the long-term average rainfall.
First Minister Humza Yousaf last week convened a meeting of the Scottish Government’s Resilience Room (SGoRR), which focused on the situation and Scotland’s National Water Scarcity Plan.
The plan is designed to ensure the correct balance is struck between protecting the environment and providing resources for human and economic activity during prolonged dry periods.
Nathan Critchlow-Watton, head of water and planning at SEPA, said: “Scotland’s climate is changing, and we urgently need to adapt.
“Severe water scarcity has significant impacts on our environment, our economy and society.
“Our rivers and lochs are under immense stress and it’s clear further action will be needed to protect them.”
Critchlow-Watton urged businesses to be aware of the warnings and follow all guidance.
“We’ve been working with businesses for some time, with a clear message around adaption,” he said.
“We’re seeing some progressive and innovative responses and we understand the challenges Scottish businesses are facing. That’s why any decision to suspend licences will not taken lightly.
“However, the situation is deteriorating fast, and we strongly urge those abstracting water from the environment to be aware of the immediate risk and follow our advice and guidance.
“Last year, we warned a decrease in summer rainfall may exert pressure on areas that have not experienced water scarcity before, and that’s now happening.
“It is vitally important that Scotland is prepared to deal with water scarcity both now and in the future and people work together to plan for and manage water scarcity events.”