Adapting to climate change and water scarcity

More support for households on private water supplies.

In anticipation of prolonged dry conditions this summer, the Scottish Government is implementing an emergency scheme that will stand ready to provide bottled water to households affected in the event of shortages.

The government is also leading a pilot project with the assistance of Scottish Water, Aberdeenshire Council and Consumer Scotland, to understand what opportunities are available to extend the public water networks to connect with households reliant on private supplies. £20 million will be invested in this parliamentary term to support this programme.

With over one third of Scotland’s 22,000 private water supplies, the initiative will be piloted in Aberdeenshire first with a view to rolling it out across Scotland. 

Environment Minister Mairi 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 do all we can to adapt and mitigate its effects. That is why we 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 households 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 or public supply I urge all households to use water wisely – it’s good for us and it’s essential for the environment. ”


Recent water scarcity reports from SEPA show an ‘early warning’ across the south of east of Scotland as a result of the dry winter and spring. Conditions may worsen unless there is more than average rainfall in the coming weeks.

There are roughly 22,000 private water supplies in Scotland serving some 50,000 properties, typically found in remote and rural locations beyond the reach of public water mains. 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. Over the past few years Scottish Government has provided emergency bottled water, delivered through Scottish Water and local authorities, to those households affected by supply shortages.

The Scottish Government has committed a total of £20 million of capital funding (£5 million in each of the next four years) to be made available to begin a programme exploring where public water networks can be extended to enable households reliant on Private Water Supplies, and affected by water scarcity, to connect.

Research published in 2020 by the Centre of Expertise for Waters on the impact of climate change confirmed that private water supplies in upland areas and particularly those in the north east of Scotland are at High Risk of running dry. However last year water scarcity had the biggest impact in the south of the Scotland - indicating that it is difficult to predict exactly which regions will be affected each year.

The Scottish Government is leading a pilot project with the assistance of Scottish Water, Aberdeenshire Council and Consumer Scotland in Aberdeenshire with the view to understand the issues that need to be addressed when extending public water mains.  In the light of those pilots, decisions will be made as to how the funds should be allocated. The Scottish Government will provide an update later this year.


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