Water scarcity risk increased in Firth of Tay area

  01 July 2022
The Firth of Tay area has now reached Moderate Scarcity, the second highest risk level, in the latest water scarcity situation report from SEPA.

Below average rainfall for June has led to a deteriorating water scarcity situation around the Firth of Tay, with worsening groundwater conditions and very low river levels.

The area has now reached Moderate Scarcity, the second highest risk level, in the latest report published by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) on Thursday 30 June 2022.

It means those who abstract water are being asked to stagger their operations, reduce volumes and durations, switch to other supplies or suspend abstractions altogether.

The increasing frequency of water scarcity is a clear 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 all be affected. 

SEPA is responsible for monitoring the situation facing Scotland's water resources and produces a weekly report between May and September when water is scarce.

The latest update also sees areas around the River Deveron in Aberdeenshire and River Findhorn in the Highlands increase from Early Warning to Alert level.  The split across the country continues, with most areas in the east at Early warning or Alert risk levels for water scarcity, whereas areas in the west continue to experience normal conditions

SEPA’s Water and Land Manager, Jennifer Leonard, said: “The water scarcity picture in eastern parts of Scotland is just one of the many consequences of climate change the country faces, and its severity is only likely to increase in the future.

“We want to work with businesses to plan their water usage long-term so that we can preserve this vital resource as effectively as possible. 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. By taking the right steps now, abstractors can help make water supplies last as long as possible through this period.

“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.”

Advice for water users

Water sources used for irrigating farmland are at risk of becoming limited in the Alert and Moderate Scarcity areas. We are urging farmers in these areas, especially if taking water from burns and small rivers, to:

  • Only irrigate when, and only as much as, absolutely necessary.
  • Make sure irrigation equipment isn’t leaking.
  • Try to irrigate at night to reduce evaporation losses.
  • Explore how you and your neighbours in the same river catchment could avoid irrigating at the same time.
  • Consider whether you could switch to using groundwater rather than river water. Contact SEPA for help and advice.

Managers of golf courses are asked to do the same.

More information about water scarcity and the latest report can be found at www.sepa.org.uk/waterscarcity.



Notes to editors

  • 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.

Alert - 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.