SCOTS are being advised to preserve water as reservoirs have fallen to their lowest levels in two decades with dwindling supplied meaning tankers being shipped onto Skye.
Large parts of Scotland are currently on water scarcity alert from Scotland’s environment regulator and landowners have been advised to avoid irrigating farmland from burns and small rivers.
Scottish Government-controlled Scottish Water has called on people to use water efficiently after storage levels in reservoirs fell to record low levels during the dry summer.
There is also concern that springs, streams and rivers used for private supplies, particularly in the north and west, are now running dry.
Following the second driest summer in 160 years in some parts of Scotland, storage levels in reservoirs are at 66%, the lowest recorded for this time of year since 2003.
While demand for water has eased – due to Scottish pupils returning to schools being back and fewer people holidaying – Scottish Water say it is still 100 million litres per day above average. They say that is enough to fill 50 Olympic-sized swimming pools or 1.2 million baths.
During the period of greatest demand in July, Scottish Water are providing tankers of water in some areas where demand remains high, such as Tighnabruaich in Argyll and Bute and Skye.
According to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency groundwater levels in the north-east are now low for the time of year and continuing to fall and Wick in particular has a “significant scarcity” classification for the fifth week running.
Thurso and Orkney classed as having “moderate scarcity” while the Outer Hebrides, and parts of southern Scotland including the Tweed, and areas in the north east are on alert.
The Scottish Government agency SEPA say that in these areas, conditions are likely to deteriorate further as the country enters a spell of dry, warm weather.
“Models suggest the next three months are likely to see above normal temperatures and near average precipitation, although there is a slightly higher than normal chance of the season being dry,” SEPA said.
While Scottish Water says there is no suggestion of restrictions being imposed, it wants customers to help protect normal water supplies by using water efficiently in their homes and gardens.
It advises using a watering can instead of a garden hose and void uising jet washers.
They say people should also stop using paddling pools, which use an average of 400 litres of water.
Other suggestions include turning the tap off when brushing teeth and using washing machines and dishwashers only when fully loaded.
Kes Juskowiak, Scottish Water’s operations general manager, said: “People might assume that, because we are at the end of summer, Scottish schools are back and there has been some heavy rain recently, there is no longer an issue with water supplies.
“That is absolutely not the case and maintaining normal supplies remains a massive challenge for us.
“We thank customers for using water efficiently when we asked back in July as we did see a reduction in the spike of over 200 million litres extra being supplied each day.
“However, demand remains between 50 and 100 million litres higher each day than the average for this time of year and our water storage and resources are low due to the continued generally dry weather.
“We can’t do anything about the low rainfall, but customers can continue to help us by using water efficiently.
“If people across the country – residents and visitors or holidaymakers – can take some small, simple steps to reduce their water use, they can make a big contribution towards our efforts to maintain normal supplies for everyone.”
Meanwhile SEPA, who have seen groundwater levels plummet at its monitoring sites, are advising landowners in those areas that are on alert only to irrigate from burns and small rivers only when absolutely necessary.
They advise farmers to try and irrigate at night to reduce evaporation losses.
They also advised landowners to explore how neighbours in the same river catchment could avoid irrigating at the same time.
They also ask farmers and managers of golf courses to consider whether the can switch to using groundwater rather than river water if conditions worsen.
Last month, people with reduced private water supplies during the warm weather were offered free bottled water through a Scottish Government support scheme.
Around 3% of Scotland’s population is on a private water supply – over 150,000 people.
Scottish Water said it was “working hard” to maintain normal water supplies to all customers by producing more where treatment works have the capacity, using storage and moving water between networks where possible.
“We have installed new infrastructure in some reservoirs such as Stornoway and have worked with industrial customers to provide alternative sources to safeguard supplies in some areas. We have also stepped up our activity to reduce leaks across our network,” Scottish Water has said.
“In some areas, the warm weather and low reservoir levels have also caused an issue with seasonal, naturally occurring manganese and discoloured water and we are doing all we can to tackle this.”