In anticipation of dry conditions this summer, bottled water will be provided to households in the event of shortages, Environment Minister Mairi McAllan has confirmed.
Climate change could see rivers and lochs in Scotland run dry, posing a threat to crops, renewable energy generation and the country’s world-famous whisky industry.
A pilot project, with the assistance of Scottish Water, Aberdeenshire Council and Consumer Scotland, is being launched to assess whether the public water networks can be extended to accommodate households reliant on private supplies.
The Scottish Government will be investing £20 million during the parliamentary term to support the programme.
It comes as recent water scarcity reports from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) show an “early warning” across the south or north east of Scotland as a result of the dry winter and spring.
And conditions may worsen unless there is more than average rainfall in the coming weeks.
Ms McAllan said: “It is clear that climate change is affecting Scotland and the availability of water.
“In recent times, prolonged dry weather has resulted in many private supplies running dry much earlier in the year, causing distress and hardship to households and businesses across Scotland – particularly in rural communities.
“In addition to taking action to prevent climate change we must all do all we can to mitigate its effects.
“That is why were are putting in place emergency support now, as well as investing £20 million to begin building the resilience of our private water supplies for the future.
Any household on private water supplies that experience a loss of water due to water scarcity should contact their local authority.
“We have asked Scottish Water to examine the prospect of connecting up communities that are in close proximity of existing water mains and that have experienced loss of water due to water scarcity, and that work is underway to determine which households might benefit.
“Most of us take for granted that clean drinking water is available at a turn of a tap. However Sepa’s reports of recurring water scarcity are a stark reminder of the need to conserve water as one of our most precious natural resources.
“Whether you are on a private of public supply I urge all households to use water wisely – it’s good for us and it’s essential for the environment.”
There are about 20,000 private water supplies in Scotland serving some 50,000 properties, typically found in remote and rural locations beyond the reach of public water mains.
The pilot will be rolled out in Aberdeenshire first with a view to expanding it across Scotland.
Most supplies source their water from surface waters such as streams, rivers and lochs which are at risk of being impacted by dry, hot weather.
Scottish Water said it was monitoring the situation, but has already asked people to collect rainwater for plants, take shorter showers, wash cars with a bucket of water rather than a hose, and take a number of other water-saving steps.