Water shortage in southern Scotland, despite heavy rainfall

  • Video report by Lewis Warner

Prolonged periods of dry weather have led to a warning of water scarcity in rivers and lochs in parts of Scotland.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency said Dumfries and Galloway was among the worst affected areas. It's urging people to try to save water.

Demand for water is so high during the warm weather that Scottish Water says it's had to produce more than 200 million litres of extra water per day nationwide in the last fortnight to maintain normal supplies.

The latest weekly Water Scarcity Situation Report from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) shows that, despite heavy rainfall and thundery showers across much of mainland Scotland last week, the majority of the country is still seeing the impacts of water scarcity - with Wigtownshire in D&G being one of the worst affected areas.

The Black Esk Reservoir in Dumfries and Galloway is 45% lower than usual. Credit: ITV Border

SEPA warned in the Spring that Scotland could quickly see water shortages if a period of prolonged dry weather returned later in the year - which did indeed happen.

The country experienced an extremely dry April, with less than a third of the usual rainfall across a large part of south Scotland. This caused water levels to fall rapidly and ground conditions became increasingly dry.

Wet weather in early May partly balanced this in some areas of the country, but in others it remained quite dry.

Scotland as a whole had less than half the normal rainfall for June (45%) and was 1.4 degrees C warmer than usual. Ground conditions continued to dry rapidly over the last two weeks of the month.

While the beginning of July saw some locally intense rain, but it wasn't enough to lead to redress the balance.  They say that "a short period of heavy rainfall is not sufficient to make up this shortfall of rainfall and much of it may quickly run off the dry soils without soaking in. This is why it is possible to have heavy rain and even the possibility of some surface water flooding at the same time as we are warning about water scarcity.''

'Extreme weather is becoming more and more common'

Terry A’Hearn, Chief Executive at the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, said:  

“The mixture of extreme rainfall, thundery showers, and significant water scarcity that we’ve seen this week in Scotland shows that we are very much living through more extreme weather patterns – and one does not balance out the other. This is just one of the many consequences of climate change Scotland is facing, and it is becoming more common.  

“Everyone knows that water is a vital resource. We need to get used to the idea that, even in a water-abundant nation like Scotland, it is a finite resource - as shown by the increasing severity of the water scarcity picture in large areas of the country.

“Water scarcity is resulting in pressures on the environment and water users and businesses abstracting water must take action now to conserve water. My message is clear: SEPA is here to offer support and guidance, so if you are having difficulty obtaining water supply or are concerned about meeting licence conditions get in touch. If you work with us and try to do the right thing in this next period, you will find a helpful and supportive regulator. If you deliberately do the wrong thing by the environment and other water users, then you’ll get the uncompromising regulator your behaviour deserves."