People and businesses across Scotland were asked to use water efficiently this autumn, to help maintain normal supplies following a record dry period and low reservoir levels.
An October request from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) comes after Met Office data showed that the North and West of the country experienced their driest summer in 160 years. For the whole country, it was the second driest on record for the same period.
Kes Juskowiak, National Water Operations Manager for Scottish Water, said, “Maintaining normal public water supplies remains a significant challenge for us. This is an unusual call in the autumn, but we are experiencing exceptional circumstances due to a significant rainfall deficit. Hopefully, autumn will bring some respite, but we need heavy and prolonged rainfall to get reservoir levels back up towards normal levels for this time of year.”
Scottish Water has 189 reservoirs or lochs that it uses for drinking water supplies and a total of 400 sources, including rivers, boreholes and springs.
David Harley, Head of Water and Planning at SEPA, says that what we’re seeing now is the “strange phenomena” of short-term wet weather against a backdrop of longer term prolonged dry spells.
“Scotland is facing a climate emergency, with more frequent extreme weather, ranging from significant water scarcity to sea level rises, heavy rainfall and flash floods, which can be devastating to communities, public services and local businesses,” added Harley. “With continued strain on the water environment, we are asking households and businesses to be extra vigilant now, to reduce demand and keep our water resources flowing.”
There are also concerns that unreliable water supplies may impact the Scottish whisky and hydropower industries.
Dr Sarah Halliday, from Dundee University’s Geography and Environmental Science department, says that action is needed to tackle a warming planet and prevent an increase in water shortages for Scotland’s citizens and its agriculture sector.
“Hydropower schemes and whisky distilleries, whose abstraction consents are linked not only to the quantity of water in our rivers but also its temperature, could be disrupted,” said Halliday. “Reduced rainfall and higher temperatures result in increased need for crop irrigation, exacerbating water shortages, and threatening the future viability of many of our traditional crops.”