Scotland’s increasing risk of drought prompts social impact research

Published:
Drought

Researchers from Heriot-Watt and the University of Edinburgh have been funded by the Centre of Expertise for Waters (CREW) to investigate how people might be affected by droughts in Scotland. 

Scotland experienced water scarcity in 2018, 2020 and 2021. Droughts and water scarcity are expected to increase due to climate change, alongside extreme rainfall. This could affect private water supplies to communities and businesses. 

The project will investigate the social and environmental factors that impact how people are affected by drought and produce policy recommendations. 

Kerri McClymont, a PhD student in Heriot-Watt's School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society will lead the project. 

McClymont said: “Scotland is really good at assessing flood risk, we know what we're doing. But when it comes to droughts we just don't have the same information available. 

“We're going to use the knowledge we already have on the factors that control the underlying social vulnerability to floods and look for commonalities to adapt it for droughts, which are becoming more frequent.

“The focus will be on the social and environmental factors that affect people's ability to respond to or recover from a hazard event like drought. This will cover everything from people's access to insurance, how isolated they are and what access they have to emergency supplies.” 

McClymont will work with Professor Lindsay Beevers from the University of Edinburgh on the project. 

Beevers said: “In Scotland, lots more people have a private water supply than in the UK as a whole, especially in rural areas. This will pose a problem as droughts increase, as it makes resilience planning more complex. 

“Our project will provide policymakers with the necessary knowledge to communicate more efficiently with the people in Scotland who are exposed to more frequent droughts.” 

Dr Katya Dimitrova-Petrova, project manager for CREW on this project said: “We are very excited to have the McClymont and Beevers team as part of an innovative CREW policy pull programme where Scottish researchers drive the research to address current gaps in environmental policy. The team has chosen a very relevant topic, given the pressures climate change and droughts are already posing on communities.”

The policy paper will be published on the CREW website in spring 2022. 

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Sarah McDaid