Businesses across Scotland urged to prepare for water scarcity this summer

  22 March 2022
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) is working with businesses across Scotland to help them prepare for a potential lack of water this summer.

Today on World Water Day, it’s emerging parts of the country could struggle in the coming months with insufficient resources due to a particularly dry winter. New data reveals January this year was the seventh driest on record for the East coast. Groundwater levels are also still low despite a series of storms in February, and without average rainfall through spring and summer, there is a risk of water scarcity particularly in Angus.  

Water scarcity is just one indicator of Scotland’s changing climate. With more extreme weather and a projected decrease in summer rainfall, many places could face pressure on water resources even if they have not experienced this before. As well as the ecological impacts - food and drink production, hydropower generation and other business activity reliant on a consistent water supply could also be affected.  

Environment Minister Mairi McAllan said: “In recent times Scotland has experienced some of the driest conditions we have seen for many years, bringing water scarcity impacts for many businesses and households across the country. 

“With climate change at the forefront of all our minds, the need to conserve water as one of our most precious natural resources is more crucial than ever. Indeed, the most recent report from the Climate Change Committee confirmed that drought will become more prevalent in years to come as summers in Scotland get drier and hotter. That’s why I urge everyone to use water wisely and to take advantage of the advice and guidance offered by SEPA and Scottish Water – it benefits all of us, is good for our economy and our planet.” 

SEPA is responsible for the forecasting, monitoring, and reporting of the situation facing Scotland's water resources and produces regular water scarcity reports between May and September. However, due to the severity of impacts last year, reports were also published outside of this period. This work, along with wet weather research, will better equip Scottish communities and organisations to innovate, adapt and prepare for future increased impacts.   

Businesses also have a role to play in managing our water environment, and efficient use of resources can lead to economic and environmental benefits. SEPA helps organisations do this in sectors such as agriculture, aquaculture, hydropower, golf, and whisky production. 

Girvan Early Growers, a co-operative of local farmers in Ayrshire, has already felt the pressures of water scarcity in previous years and works with SEPA in becoming more resilient.   

Chairman of Girvan Early Growers, Andrew Young, said: “I have been a farmer for more than 40 years and last year was the driest I have seen in my lifetime. We simply can’t grow high quality potatoes and carrots here without access to water.   

“By working closely with SEPA, we can plan where the best locations are to grow our crops. We can also be flexible and abstract water from different sources depending on where the pressures are.  

“Simply having that awareness and a clear back-up plan for drier months, allows us to operate our business as effectively as possible.” 

SEPA’s Head of Water and Planning, Nathan Critchlow-Watton, said: “As part of our national resilience, it’s important that Scotland is ready to deal with water scarcity now and in the future. At SEPA we’re here to help with information to allow businesses to make informed decisions about reducing their reliance on water and to plan for and manage water scarcity events. 

“Water abstractors licenced by SEPA should have a plan to deal with the range of conditions they may experience. They should monitor their water usage and equipment to ensure they are operating at maximum efficiency and avoiding any unnecessary leakage. Businesses are also being encouraged to work together and plan abstractions accordingly to minimise any potential impacts. 

“SEPA can provide further advice and guidance on a series of straightforward steps that can be taken to reduce pressure on Scotland’s water environment. Whilst our first aim is always to help people do the right thing, we can hold to account businesses who deliberately fail to follow the abstraction guidelines set out by SEPA.” 

Business can find out more information about water scarcity and how to prepare on our website. 

ENDS 

Notes to editor