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Water shortage warning after Scotland bakes in heatwave

A sprinkler head sprays water onto a green lawn in London as temperatures in the south of England are expected to hit an annual high of 33C this week. Picture date: Monday July 11, 2022.
A sprinkler head sprays water onto a green lawn in London as temperatures in the south of England are expected to hit an annual high of 33C this week. Picture date: Monday July 11, 2022.

Parts of Scotland are at risk of water shortages after the country baked in record-breaking temperatures during this week’s heatwave.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) warned of an increased risk of water scarcity in its situation report published on Friday.

Jennifer Leonard, Sepa’s senior water and land manager, warned “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.”

In the west, the Leven catchment area, Dunbartonshire, has been raised to an early warning, joining the rest of Galloway and Ayrshire.

Scotland recorded its hottest day in history on Tuesday, with 35.1C being recorded at Floors Castle in the Borders.

This was more than 2C above the previous record of 32.9C, recorded at Greycrook in the Scottish Borders in August 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”.

Businesses which use water in moderate scarcity areas have been advised to do so only when absolutely necessary, to stagger their operations, irrigate at night where possible, reduce volumes and durations, or suspend abstractions altogether.

Firms in alert areas should plan ahead and work with neighbouring water users to schedule abstractions where possible.

Sepa also said 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.

River at low water level
Low water levels are affecting rivers across the country (PA)

“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.”