Water shortage warning issued after unprecedented heatwave

Businesses have been warned to consider their water requirements in some areas while levels remain low.

Water shortage warning issued by Sepa after heatwave brought record-breaking temperature to Scotland iStock
Sepa warned that scarcity is a 'very real threat' as a result of climate change.

Parts of Scotland are at risk of water shortages following the record-breaking heatwave.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) warned of an increased likelihood of water scarcity in its latest situation report.

The watchdog’s senior water and land manager, Jennifer Leonard, cautioned that “water scarcity is a very real threat as a result of climate change”.

She added: “Dry ground conditions and low river levels means the Don catchment has been raised to moderate scarcity.

“With similar conditions across much of Scotland, the Ythan, the Dee, the Firth of Forth area, the Almond, Tyne and Firth of Tay group remain at moderate scarcity.”

Earlier this week, Scotland recorded its hottest day in history on Tuesday, with 35.1C being recorded at Floors Castle in the Borders, which was more than 2C above the previous record of 32.9C, recorded at Greycook in 2003.

Sepa said it will continue to monitor the situation and manage water in line with Scotland’s national water scarcity plan.

Ms Leonard warned that as well as a changing climate, low water levels are also a result of “long-term weather deficit and below average rainfall”.

She said although some rain is forecast, “it is unlikely there will be enough to improve conditions”.

The environmental agency recommends that businesses which use water in moderate scarcity areas should only do so only when absolutely necessary.

It added that businesses using water should stagger their operations, irrigate at night where possible, reduce volumes and durations, or suspend abstractions altogether.

In early warning areas, businesses should consider their upcoming water requirements and to check equipment for any leaks.

If the water scarcity risk level reaches significant, Sepa said it will consider whether restriction on use will be required to protect the water environment.

Ms Leonard said: “We want to work with businesses to plan their water usage long-term so that we can preserve this vital resource.

“Not only will that protect Scotland’s rivers and lochs, but it will minimise business risks as well.

“In the meantime, we stand ready to offer advice and support to businesses affected by the current conditions.

“Whilst our first aim is always to help people do the right thing, we can hold to account those who deliberately fail to comply with their legal responsibilities when abstracting water from the environment.”

On Wednesday, Scottish Water said its reservoir levels were at 74%, a fall from 77% the week before and down from 90% in late May.

Kes Juskowiak, Scottish Water’s water operations general manager, said: “Current levels are below average for this time of year but the main issue is demand for water from customers, which has increased considerably during the warm weather.”