Water scarcity risk increases in 11 more areas across Scotland

  15 July 2022
Eleven more areas in Scotland are at an increased risk of water scarcity in the latest situation report published by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).
  • The Dee, Firth of Forth, Almond and Tyne catchment areas have been raised to Moderate Scarcity.  
  • The Clyde, Helmsdale, Earn and Spey catchments are now at Alert.  
  • The Ness, Nith and Doon catchments have reached Early Warning 

It comes after SEPA warned last week conditions were unlikely to improve as dry weather continues, leading to low river and groundwater levels.  

SEPA is monitoring the situation closely and coordinating 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, 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. 

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

“The situation continues to deteriorate in the east of the country, with most areas now in Alert or Moderate Scarcity level.  

“We’re also now seeing conditions worsen in the south-west and businesses that rely on water in this part of the country should also be thinking about how to be more efficient.  

“Water scarcity is a very real threat as a result of climate change, and one which affects multiple industries across Scotland including agriculture, whisky production, golf and hydropower. Rather than being the result of extreme short term weather – like that we are experiencing in the UK at the moment - water scarcity is the result of long term weather deficit and below average rainfall over a number of months.

“We continue to support businesses across sectors to plan for and manage these conditions now and in the future.  

“However, where businesses deliberately fail to follow abstraction licenses set out by SEPA, we will take appropriate enforcement action to protect the environment.” 

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



  • AUDIO with Nathan Critchlow-Watton, Head of Water and Planning at SEPA, 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 Planexplains 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.