Increasing Water Scarcity in Scotland

Most of the Scotland is now at Alert – except for seven areas in early warning – Orkney, Ythan, Don, Kintyre, Firth of Clyde, Loch Fyne and the River Add.   Loch Maree in the Highlands reaches significant risk – Ness and Esk areas increase to moderate risk .

SEPA 8th June 2023

The risk of water scarcity around the Loch Maree area in the Highlands has been raised to Significant, the highest level available, in the latest report published by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).  

There are 23 abstraction licences issued by SEPA in the Loch Maree area, 22 of which are for hydropower generation and already have ‘low flow protection’ conditions set in their permits. This requires operators to stop abstracting as the environment gets drier, without the need for licence suspensions, and ensure flows are prioritised to the river.   

SEPA is in contact with all affected businesses to provide further advice and guidance in line with Scotland’s National Water Scarcity Plan. 

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

“For the risk of water scarcity to have reached significant this early in the summer is extremely concerning and leaves no doubt that the next few months are going to be very challenging for all those who rely on the water environment to run their business.   

“While water levels are critical in this part of the Highlands, we can see other areas of Scotland are on the same trajectory and it’s vital that businesses take steps now to maximise the resource available and prevent further environmental harm.”  

This week’s water scarcity report, published 9th June 2023, reveals two areas are now at moderate scarcity – the Ness area in the Highlands and the Esk area of Dumfriesshire. 

Abstractors and irrigators are advised to manage water wisely to minimise the need for licence restrictions, and regularly check equipment to make sure it’s in good condition and not leaking. Where possible, the volume and rate of abstractions should be reduced.  

Sarah Cowie, Environmental Resources Policy Manager at NFUS, said:   

“Water is a vital resource for the agricultural sector as we cannot produce food without a consistent and plentiful water supply. Last year, SEPA suspended abstraction licences for some growers for the first time and the current prolonged period of dry weather across the country means all farmers and growers must think about water use on farm now and plan ahead for the coming summer season. Our Horticulture Working Group met with SEPA this week to discuss a partnership approach between growers and SEPA on water resource management.”    

Anyone concerned about meeting licence conditions or wishing to discuss contingency measures are encouraged to contact SEPA by emailing  

For more information on water scarcity and to view the latest report, visit     

Further information on water efficiency measures can also be found on the Farm Advisory Service, NetRegs, and Farming & Water Scotland websites

Weather forecast (08/06/2023)
High pressure continues moving slowly northeast keeping mostly dry conditions Thursday into Saturday. Shallow troughs of low pressure move north across the UK from Saturday bringing the risk of showers from Saturday night into Monday, some of these showers can be locally heavy and thundery.
Dry weather is most likely to continue into late June and early July. The outlook for the June – August period also suggests that across the UK there is double the likelihood of the period being hotter than normal.

© Crown copyright [2023], Met Office

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