Water scarcity risk increases for businesses ahead of warm, dry weather

  26 May 2023
The risk of water scarcity risk has increased in parts of Scotland, with Alert level reached for the first time around Loch Maree in the Highlands.

Alert level has been reached for the first time this year in the latest water scarcity report published by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

The area around Loch Maree in the Highlands has recorded very low river flows and dry ground conditions, meaning businesses abstracting water from the environment need to start thinking now about the volume they take and when they take it, or consider an alternative source.

The risk of water scarcity is categorised in four levels - Early Warning, Alert, Moderate Scarcity and Significant Scarcity.

Areas in southern and central Scotland, and the majority of the north including the Western Isles, are also now in Early Warning.

Head of Water and Planning at SEPA, Nathan Critchlow-Watton, said:

“With very little to no rainfall forecast across Scotland in the coming days, we expect ground conditions to continue getting drier and river flows to decrease or remain low.

“The next few weeks and months are a crucial time of year for water demand and we’re urging abstractors to manage water wisely, minimising the need for restrictions to be imposed by SEPA.”

Scotland’s climate is changing and, across the seasons, businesses are experiencing the impacts of more frequent extreme weather events like water scarcity.

The number of serious drought events is projected to increase from an average of one every 20 years, to one every two years in the near future.

Nathan Critchlow-Watton added:

“We all have a role to play in managing our water environment, this summer and beyond. Through the efficient use of water, businesses can increase their resilience to the impacts of prolonged dry conditions and save money.”

Several industries across Scotland rely on natural water resources, whether it’s for food and drink production, hydropower or maintaining world famous golf courses.

All water abstractors should be aware of the potential risk of water scarcity, monitor their water use, and plan ahead.

Businesses should review available options to increase their resilience and reduce the impacts of water scarcity. For example, land managers could consider investing in equipment and infrastructure to improve efficiency, such as an irrigation lagoon.

Those collecting water from the same source are urged to work together with neighbours and stagger abstractions to make best use of available water.

Further advice and support is available at www.sepa.org.uk/waterscarcity.



  • View the latest water scarcity report. As Alert level has been reached, water scarcity reports will now be published weekly on SEPA’s website.
  • While SEPA focuses on managing abstractions from Scotland’s natural water resources for agriculture and other industrial uses, Scottish Water maintains public water supply.