Distillery dams could protect whisky production during future Scottish heatwaves

Researchers have helped build dams at a whisky distillery in a bid to protect production during heatwaves, which they claim will become more frequent with climate change.

The small dams have been built into the landscape at The Glenlivet distillery in Moray and will capture water to be used in production during periods of scarcity.

Last month's heatwave saw temperatures soar across Scotland. Experts have predicted heatwaves will become more frequent due to climate change.

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Many distilleries have had to temporarily stop distilling in recent summers because of water shortages, costing the industry millions.

Discover the secret ways used by smugglers on the Glenlivet Estate and maybe sample a legal dram yourselfDiscover the secret ways used by smugglers on the Glenlivet Estate and maybe sample a legal dram yourself
Discover the secret ways used by smugglers on the Glenlivet Estate and maybe sample a legal dram yourself

During the dry summer of 2018, groundwater supplies to The Glenlivet distillery fell and did not replenish until the following spring.

Researchers from the University of Aberdeen hope the eco-friendly project will prevent the closure of the distillery during dry periods.

PhD student Jessica Fennell said: "Our results found that the features we installed will have a small, but positive impact that could help increase water availability during periods of water scarcity and reduce flood peaks during high rainfall.

"Crucially, this could prevent the distillery closing during dry periods which has a significant cost impact.

"Because these measures enhance groundwater recharge, and groundwater contribution to streams, our research has also raised the possibility of positive implications for water temperature.

"This is important because distilleries require cool water and groundwater is typically colder than surface water during summer.

"As water temperature is expected to increase with climate change, more water will be needed to achieve the same cooling effects, and increased groundwater flow could help stabilise stream temperatures as well as increase flows through dry summer periods."

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Co-author of the study Dr Josie Geris, from the School of Geosciences, said: "Water scarcity may become a significant issue in Scotland in the future, and here we have shown that these nature-based solutions offer a cost effective, environmentally beneficial approach to water resource management that can be applied to this economically vital sector. There may also be a benefit in terms of securing groundwater supplies.

"The lessons learned can also potentially be applied to other areas of the economy that rely on private water supply and bring other potential benefits, for example in flood management, improvements to biodiversity and water quality, the restoration of upland habitats, and carbon storage."

Dr Ronald Daalmans, environmental sustainability manager at Chivas Brothers, added: "Our aim is to ensure all our distilleries operate within the local capacity of their catchment to provide water, particularly during low flows.

"This research has indicated that the land within the catchment could be used to help mitigate the impacts of climate change on water availability.

"This is important for the long-term viability of the distillery, but could also benefit the entire Scotch Whisky industry, especially in upland areas.

"We intend to continue monitoring the effect of the measures on water availability at this site over the long term."

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