Scotland Water Scarcity Risk Reaches ‘Significant’ Level

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Businesses around Scotland are now being called upon by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) to implement water-saving measures across their sites, with water scarcity levels now reaching Significant in mid and north Fife.


It’s possible that abstraction restrictions could be brought in by the organisation, with January 2022 the driest the east of Scotland has seen since 1940. A lack of rainfall in the region has also had a big impact on groundwater and river levels, while other parts of the country are also being warned that similar conditions are on the horizon for them, as well.


Nathan Critchlow-Watton, head of water and planning with the SEPA, explained that water resources are now critical in the east.


He continued, saying that groundwater levels are now the lowest they have been since records began in 2009 – and short-term conditions are not expected to improve. Even areas where rainfall has been seen are still vulnerable because of dry ground conditions and longer-term rainfall deficits.


In some parts of Fife, the water scarcity risk is now considered to be Significant by the SEPA and, as such, the organisation is now taking additional steps to ensure that local water environments are protected in accordance with Scotland’s National Water Scarcity Plan.


The River Tweed catchment in the Borders is also expected to reach Significant levels over the next few days or so. The SEPA is working with businesses affected by the situation, the majority of which operate in the agriculture sector. The next steps are set to be confirmed with farmers soon.


Clear evidence now exists that further action is required to ensure the sustainability of local water environments, with fish, invertebrates and plants all being put at risk by very low flows and high temperatures.


Some parts of river ecology are able to recover quickly, but some – such as plant and fish populations – can sustain serious long-term damage or even be lost entirely.


David Harley, interim chief officer circular economy, said: “It is clear that a significant area of Scotland’s water environment is stressed from the prolonged dry weather this summer, and conditions are only going to get worse as this continues. Although there has been some recent rainfall in the east, it is not enough to recover the longer-term deficits.


“SEPA understands the impacts on businesses facing these difficult conditions and supports sectors reliant on water all year round on ways to become more resilient. However, it is vital we work together now to ensure the sustainability of local water environments for all who rely on them.”


He went on to say that water abstractors keen to discuss contingency measures or who are worried about meeting their licence conditions are now being encouraged to get in touch with the organisation to help address water scarcity issues.


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