Parts of Scotland are still being impacted by water scarcity despite heavy rainfall in parts of the country this week.
Businesses which are licensed to abstract water from ground sources such as rivers have been warned that action is needed to protect water resources.
A weekly report from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) showed that the Wigtownshire area of Galloway, Helmsdale, Naver and the Wick area of Caithness have been affected by significant scarcity.
Meanwhile, there has been moderate scarcity in the Western Isles, Orkney, Doon, Ayr, Clyde and Irvine. It follows a recent period of warm, dry weather across much of the country.
Water abstractors have been asked to monitor their usage and equipment to ensure they are operating at maximum efficiency and avoiding any unnecessary leakage.
SEPA had warned in the spring that water scarcity conditions could deteriorate if a period of prolonged dry weather returned.
Scotland experienced an extremely dry April, with less than a third of the usual rainfall across a large part of the south of the country. 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.
The country 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, it was not enough to lead to a sustained improvement.
Terry A’Hearn, SEPA chief executive, 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.”
Meanwhile, people with reduced private water supplies following the recent warm weather will be offered free bottled water through a Scottish Government support scheme.
Public water supplies, which the vast majority of households in Scotland use, are not affected.
Net zero secretary Michael Matheson urged people across the country to continue to use water efficiently. He said: “Scotland has been experiencing warm, dry conditions over the last few weeks, but this has consequences for water scarcity.
“It’s likely that the drying up of private water supplies so early in the summer is a clear indication of the impacts of climate change.
“Most of us take for granted that clean drinking water is available at a turn of a tap. However, for private water supply users this is not necessarily the case following a prolonged dry and hot spell of weather.
“With climate change at the forefront of all our minds, this is a stark reminder of the need to conserve water as one of our most precious natural resources.
“Whether you have been affected by the recent shortages or not, I urge all households to use water wisely and to take note of the advice issued by Scottish Water – it benefits all of us and is good for our planet.”