Early warnings for some parts of Scotland have been issued in the country’s first water scarcity report of 2022, with organisations in affected regions urged to consider water efficiency solutions to protect the environment and shore up their own business operations.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) alert follows a period of dry conditions around the country back in March, with just half the long-term average monthly rainfall, STV News reports.
Last year, research from NatureScot revealed that, over the next 20 years, Scotland is likely to face increased risk of extreme drought as a result of climate change. It was found that the number of extreme drought events could climb from an average of one every 20 years to one in every three.
It also predicted that, as well as being more frequent, these periods of drought could possibly last between two and three months longer than previously. Hotspot areas were denoted as the Borders, Caithness, Aberdeenshire, Shetland and Orkney.
At the time, chief executive of the organisation Francesca Osowska described the findings as “stark”, saying they show just how urgent the task ahead is in order to ensure “a nature-rich future for Scotland”.
She continued, saying: “Enhancing and protecting nature is a key part of the solution to the climate emergency and by identifying areas that may be at most risk, we can focus conservation efforts to increase resilience and protect ecosystems.”
Nature-based solutions for climate change
In Scotland, there are various diverse habitats that can be utilised to help the country fight climate change.
For example, one of its greatest assets is the soil itself, serving as an excellent carbon store, with more than 3,000 megatonnes of carbon in the earth, some 53 per cent of which can be found in deep peatland soils, according to NatureScot.
The marine and coastal environment, meanwhile, are also able to capture and store carbon in much the same way as soil – except this carbon is known as ‘blue carbon’.
Various species and sediments work to help tackle climate change, including kelp forests, seagrass meadows, reefs, maerl beds and intertidal saltmarshes. Marine sediments alone store more than 1,700 megatonnes of carbon.
Even in urban environments, nature has its role to play in helping us address the climate crisis. For example, new green or blue natural spaces could be created and the existing ones managed more effectively, as well as restoring functional ecosystems to deliver greater services and benefits.
Technological innovations and ideas can also come into play here, helping cities and townships develop so they’re healthier, happier, water-friendly, nature-rich, resilient and thriving.
For example, the University of Glasgow has installed green screens, which are ivy fences that are designed to help protect against airborne particulate pollution and help reduce rainwater runoff.
Initial results indicate that they are, indeed, effective at tackling pollution, especially when particle concentrations are higher – and surveys have also found that the public view their installation favourably.
Other green infrastructure could also include green roofs, spaces, rain gardens and living walls, with mounting evidence now showing that there are all sorts of benefits associated with such systems, benefits for people, wildlife and the climate.
A recent Forest Research study found that combining landscape, community and individual site levels can deliver additive and even synergistic benefits of green space in built-up areas, reducing flood risks, educating local communities, acting as a haven for threatened species, creating jobs, boosting the local economy and increasing property values.
This, it was observed, can make a significant contribution to the mitigation of and adaptation to climate change, helping to climate-proof urban areas and their communities, while supporting mental and physical health.
However, the group did go on to note that in order to deliver these benefits in a meaningful way, strong collaboration will be required between local government, non-governmental organisations, scientific leaders, planners and site managers, as well as the local community.
“With community involvement, the benefits are maximised as sites are respected and become ‘owned’ by communities, vandalism and crime is reduced and management costs are minimised. Without community support and ‘buy-in’ the risk of failure increases and the beneficial value is moderated,” it concluded.
What can businesses do?
With this latest drought warning from the SEPA in mind, head of water and planning Nathan Critchlow-Watton explained: “Water is a resource that underpins key industries right across Scotland, including farming, food and drink production, energy and golf.
“We’re already seeing the effects of climate change. Last summer, the north and west of the country experienced its driest April-September in 160 years, while for the whole country it was the second driest on record for the same period.
“With a decrease in summer rainfall expected, we have to be prepared for increased pressure on Scotland’s water resources, perhaps in places that have never had to deal with water scarcity before.”
He went on to say that any water abstractors currently licensed by the SEPA need to have a plan in place now to deal with water scarcity issues in the near future. Water usage and equipment should be monitored to make sure that use is minimised and everything is working at maximum efficiency.
It could also prove beneficial for businesses to look into who supplies their water, with a view to possibly switching water supplier, to get a better deal on their water supply costs, if they’re able to find a supplier that suits their particular business needs more effectively, as the water market in Scotland has been deregulated allow non-household customers to switch water supplier ad reduce their water costs by on average 18 per cent.
There are a range of benefits associated with switching, everything from lower bills and better customer service to consolidated billing and added value water ancillary services.
A water audit could also carried out to help you gain insights into your usage and consumption, allowing you to identify weak and vulnerable areas and implement the appropriate water-saving solutions,
And by engaging in water efficiency projects businesses could easily reduce their water consumption and waste water discharge by on average 30 per cent,
Now that's good for business and the environment!