Scotland's whisky and hydro-power at risk due to climate change water shortages amid loch warning

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.

The warning comes from University of Dundee academic Dr Sarah Halliday as she prepares to host a panel event focusing on the environmental crisis.

She says urgent action to tackle global warming is needed to prevent an increase in water shortages for Scotland’s citizens and its agriculture sector.

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“Climate change is putting increasing pressure on our freshwater resources and dependent ecosystems here in Scotland,” she said.

The impacts of climate change are having an effect on rivers and lochs in Scotland, with changes in rainfall patterns meaning flash floods and droughts are both becoming increasingly common. Picture: Neil Hanna

“Changes in rainfall patterns and increases in extreme events means flash floods and droughts are both becoming increasingly common.

“In July, over half the month’s rainfall fell in one hour, leading to significant flash flooding in Edinburgh.

“This was despite the summer of 2021 being the fourth hottest summer since records began.

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Hydro-power schemes and whisky distilleries are among the Scottish industries and amenities at risk from climate change, according to University of Dundee academic Dr Sarah Halliday, who is hosting a series of talks focusing on water and the environmental crisis

“The consequence is that significant areas of Scotland are experiencing moderate water scarcity now.”

Scottish industry and amenities are also at risk from climate change, according to Dr Halliday.

“If reduced river flow becomes the norm, then this has additional consequences,” she said.

“Hydro-power schemes and whisky distilleries, whose abstraction consents are linked not only to the quantity of water in our rivers but also its temperature, could be disrupted.

“Reduced rainfall and higher temperatures result in increased need for crop irrigation, exacerbating water shortages and threatening the future viability of many of our traditional crops.

“We are running out of time to protect our water resources and that is why it is imperative we adapt.”

Festival of the Future COP26 Series: Water will take place online from 2pm to 4pm on Thursday.

Hosted by Dr Halliday, it will feature guest speakers Dr Caroline Clason, an associate professor at the University of Plymouth, who will discuss the importance of glaciers as water resources.

The University of Dundee’s Dr Andrew Black will also talk about natural flood management in Scotland, while Nandan Mukherjee, a post-doctoral research fellow at Dundee, will shed light on his award-winning work on creating floating homes in flood-prone regions of Bangladesh.

This virtual event is free to attend, but places must be booked in advance online.

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