Wick and parts of Sutherland facing ‘significant’ water shortage

A young gull with Wick River at a very low level. Picture: DGS
A young gull with Wick River at a very low level. Picture: DGS

Scotland’s environmental regulator has warned that Wick and parts of Sutherland are facing a “significant scarcity” of water.

A report from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) shows that, despite heavy rainfall and thundery showers across much of mainland Scotland last week, most of the country is still seeing the impact of water shortages.

Businesses and individuals are being warned that action is needed to protect water resources.

SEPA’s “significant scarcity” rating applies to the Wick area as well as the Helmsdale and Naver areas of Sutherland. The Wigtownshire area of Galloway comes into the same category.

The Western Isles, Orkney, Doon, Ayr, Clyde and Irvine are facing “moderate scarcity”.

Water abstractors licensed by SEPA should have a plan to deal with the range of conditions they may experience, the agency said. They should monitor their water usage and equipment to ensure they are operating at maximum efficiency and avoiding unnecessary leakage.

SEPA chief executive Terry A’Hearn said: “The mixture of extreme rainfall, thundery showers and significant water scarcity that we saw last 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.”

Scottish Water is reminding people across Scotland to use water efficiently.

Those concerned about private water supply levels should contact their local authority.

Keth Banks, who writes the monthly Weather Watch column in the John O’Groat Journal, confirmed that it had been an “exceptionally dry” spell for the Wick area.

He said: “Last month we had just 12.0mm in Wick – that’s 19.5 per cent of the long-term average for July for the town.

“July 2021 was also Wick’s second-driest July on record. The driest was in 1955 when the total was just 9.0mm.”

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