SEPA issues first water scarcity warning of 2022 season

  28 April 2022
Parts of Scotland have reached early warning stage in the first water scarcity report published by SEPA this year.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has published its first water scarcity report of the year, with low levels being recorded in parts of Scotland.

The southern half of the country has reached early warning stage and businesses which abstract water should consider how they can be more efficient to protect both the environment and their own operations.

It comes after dry conditions across Scotland in March, with only half of the long-term average monthly rainfall. Groundwater levels at monitoring sites in Fife and Angus are particularly low. Normal amounts for this time of year would have benefited river flows, topped up reservoirs and provided moisture in the soils.

SEPA is responsible for the forecasting, monitoring, and reporting of the situation facing Scotland's water resources and produces weekly water scarcity reports between May and September.

Head of Water and Planning at SEPA, Nathan Critchlow-Watton, said: “Water is a resource that underpins key industries right across Scotland, including farming, food and drink production, energy and golf.

“We’re already seeing the effects of climate change. Last summer, the North and West of the country experienced its driest April-September in 160 years, while for the whole country it was the second driest on record for the same period. With a decrease in summer rainfall expected, we have to be prepared for increased pressure on Scotland’s water resources, perhaps in places that have never had to deal with water scarcity before.

“Water abstractors licensed by SEPA must have a plan to deal with water scarcity. They should monitor their water usage and equipment to ensure they are minimising use and operating at maximum efficiency.

“Our aim is to work with businesses to do the right thing and protect Scotland’s water environment. We can provide advice and guidance on steps to reduce pressure on rivers at risk of drought. Taking action now will reduce the likelihood of SEPA resorting to regulatory action.”

Businesses can take steps  to protect water supplies by planning ahead, reducing volumes and irrigating at night where possible. Operators should also work together to stagger abstractions.


Notes to editors

  • AUDIO with SEPA’s Head of Water and Planning, Nathan Crichlow-Watton, is available to download from our media centre here. No registration is required to access the file.
  • The latest report and information about Scotland’s water situation can be found here.  
  • The National Water Scarcity Plan explains how water resources will be managed prior to and during periods of prolonged dry weather. This is to ensure the correct balance is struck between protecting the environment and providing resource for human and economic activity.
  • The weekly report categorises the water situation across Scotland through a five-tiered approach. Appropriate action should be taken within these five categories:

Normal Conditions

Abstract as normal.

Early warning

Start to consider how you can optimise water use efficiency.


If you are irrigating your land, check equipment, don’t over spray, use trickle irrigation and irrigate at night to avoid evaporation.

Moderate scarcity

In prolonged dry periods, reduce abstractions by staggering with other operators, reduce the volume and switch to other supplies or suspend your abstractions.

Significant scarcity

This means Scotland’s water resources are becoming scarce - switch supplies or temporarily stop abstracting.