Level of water shortage in Scotland rises as parts of England declare drought

More and more parts of Scotland have reached the highest level of water scarcity as a halt to water withdrawals is put in place.

The east of the country has continued to dry out over the past week, with conditions “deteriorating with hot and dry weather”, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) has warned.

Businesses and farmers surrounding River Eden in Fife must stop all water-taking activities from midnight Saturday after the agency suspended licenses.

The area reached a “significant shortage” last week, with the Tweed catchment in the Borders reaching the highest category this week.

Water abstraction across borders is to be suspended from next week, with farmers relying on groundwater and river water being contacted ahead of the ban.

In this area, the Mouthbridge water measuring station at Blackadder Water dropped to its lowest rate since records began in 1974.

Meanwhile, Lyne station recorded its fourth lowest throughput in 53 years.

The suspensions primarily affect the agricultural industry, with Sepa swearing they will be in place for the “minimum time necessary”.

It comes as a drought was declared in parts of England on Friday.

Parts of the South West, parts of South and Central England and East England are due to move into drought status, the Department for Environment, Food and Business has said rural.

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Water-taking bans are part of Scotland’s national water scarcity plan.

David Harley, Acting Director of Circular Economy for SEPA, said: “Having to impose suspensions on water withdrawals underlines the seriousness of the conditions in the east of Scotland this summer.

“It’s not a step we take lightly, but the evidence is clear and we can’t avoid it any longer.

“We work closely with Scottish farmers to ensure the sustainability of local aquatic environments for all who depend on them.”

Mr Harley said action was needed to prevent longer-term damage to waterways as well as fish populations and natural habitats.

He added: “As climate change leads to water scarcity becoming more frequent, we are also working to help businesses plan longer term for these conditions.

“We remain in constant dialogue with water-dependent sectors and work with them throughout the year on ways to become more resilient, protecting the environment as well as their own operations.”

The combination of low flows and high temperatures can lead to the death of fish, invertebrates and plants living in the waterways.

Lost fish and plant populations could take years to recover, while some populations, such as pearl mussels, could disappear forever.

East Scotland also had the driest January in over 80 years and groundwater levels are at their lowest since records began in 2009.

The rain that has been observed in the region has not been sufficient to recover the longer term deficits.