SCOTLAND faces water shortages unless immediate action is taken to make the country more resilient to drought, experts have warned.

A recent study by the University of Dundee found that longer dry spells resulting from a changing climate, coupled with a rising demand for water, have left the country vulnerable to water shortages.

The report, published by the Centre of Expertise for Water (CREW), has called for changes in the way people use and manage water, in order to protect supplies in the future.

Dr Sarah Halliday, who led the research, said: “There is a widespread misconception that water resources are always abundant across Scotland because it’s ‘always raining’, and this has led to this precious resource being largely undervalued.

READ MORE: Drought will hit Scotland once every three years, scientists predict

“However, we are experiencing more extremes in our weather, and while this can result in very intense rainfall events, it can also lead to much longer periods of lower rainfall.

“Added to this we are also seeing the demand for water increase which, combined with periods of reduced available water, is increasing our national vulnerability to water scarcity.”

The study found shortages are already having an impact on everyday life, and warned that things could get worse if no action is taken.

In recent years, water supply issues have seen whisky distilleries halt production for periods over the summer, and farmers prevented from using water to irrigate crops.

Some local authorities, such as Aberdeenshire, have also had to deliver bottled water to homes where their private water supply has run dry.

Dr Halliday said: “With these impacts set to become more severe and widespread as climate change continues and water demand varies, it is critical we take proactive action now.”

Ministers have welcomed the report, with Net Zero Secretary Mairi McAllan saying: “I welcome this study, which adds to the growing body of evidence reflecting that Scotland is increasingly affected by water scarcity, and would like to thank the research team at the University of Dundee and the Centre of Expertise for Water for their work.

“The Scottish Government is working at pace to ensure we adapt to, and mitigate the impacts of, climate change.

“For example, our recent consultation on water, wastewater and drainage included proposals for a national strategic water resource management plan and we are also increasing our support for those communities who depend on private water supplies and who can be particularly affected in times of water scarcity.

“However, this isn’t only an issue for government and the water industry but for the whole of society.

“This study rightly highlights the importance of behavioural change and we all have a part to play in protecting this precious resource from the effects of climate change by using water more responsibly.”

The report made a number of recommendations on how the issue should be addressed, focusing on how water supplies in Scotland are used, managed and governed.