Water Scarcity risk increases across Scotland

  22 July 2022
Following a week of hot and dry weather, many parts of Scotland remain at an increased risk of water scarcity in the latest situation report published by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).
  • The Don catchment has been raised to Moderate Scarcity. 
  • The Dee, Ythan, the Firth of Tay, Firth of Forth, Almond and Tyne catchments remain at Moderate Scarcity
  • The Leven (Dunbartonshire) has reached Early Warning

Most of the east coast is now at Alert or Moderate Scarcity due to an extended period of low river levels and dry weather. In the west, the Leven (Dunbartonshire) catchment has been raised to early warning, joining the rest of Galloway and Ayrshire.

SEPA continues to monitor the situation closely and coordinate steps to manage water resources in line with Scotland's National Water Scarcity Plan. 

This includes advising businesses that abstract water in Moderate Scarcity areas to only do so when absolutely necessary, stagger their operations, irrigate at night where possible, reduce volumes and durations or suspend abstractions altogether. 

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

In Early Warning areas, the advice is for businesses to consider their upcoming water requirements and to check equipment for any leaks.

If the water scarcity risk level reaches Significant, then SEPA will consider whether restrictions on abstractions will be required to protect the water environment.

SEPA’s Senior Water and Land Manager, Jennifer Leonard, said:  

“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.

“Water scarcity is a very real threat as a result of climate change. It is also the result of long-term weather deficit and below average rainfall, and although some rain is forecast, it is unlikely there will be enough to improve conditions.

“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.

“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.”

For more information on water scarcity, as well as the latest report, visit www.sepa.org.uk/waterscarcity   


Notes to Editors

  • A short audio file with Jennifer Leonard, SEPA’s Senior Water and Land Manager, is available to download from our media centre. No registration is required to access the file.
  • 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 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. 
  • 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.