Advice for abstractors and other water users

At the beginning of this winter SEPA issued an Early Warning for potential water scarcity in 2019 across much of the east of the country. There is a risk of water scarcity in 2019 in the northeast region if winter recharge continues to be insufficient. The risk is lower elsewhere along the east of the country.

Further detail can be found in our monthly situation report.

Everyone is strongly encouraged to build water resilience into their business as this can help with plans for the future. By taking the right steps now, it could help reduce the impact of water scarcity in the future.AbstractorsWork together to secure the water available - speak with other water users in your catchment to discuss allocating different times for abstracting to minimise any potential impacts.


  • Consider switching to taking water from a groundwater borehole (either via the full application route or for use only in times of water scarcity) rather than a watercourse. Consideration should be given to drilling a new borehole. Please contact your local team for help and advice.

  • The 2019 Agri-Environment Climate Scheme application round is now open and closes on Friday 12 April.  Funding is available for irrigation lagoons to help maintain supplies and protect low flows. This is the time to react if you are thinking about making an application to help build your future water resilience. More information is available on the Rural Payments and Services website or contact your local SEPA team for advice.
  • Check irrigation equipment is not leaking.

  • Consider trickle irrigation.

Further advice for livestock farmers

SEPA understands farmers are looking for alternatives to cereal straw bedding this winter and have received a number of questions on when waste management regulation is applied.

Can be used for animal bedding without any waste authorisation

  • Other plant material such as pea haulm, rape straw, miscanthus etc.
  • Woodchip, sawdust and shavings from timber sawmills
  • Woodchip, sawdust and shavings from Grade A recycled wood; for example, only from packing crates and clean white pallets.
  • De-inked paper sludge (paper crumb).

For clarity, no waste exemption is required to use the material as bedding or apply the spent bedding and manure to land.

Storage and application to land must comply with CAR General Binding Rule 18. More information on GBR18 can be found in SEPA's CAR Practical Guide.

General Advice

  • Get confirmation from your supplier that the material is safe to use with your livestock. 
  • Carefully check the material on delivery. If you believe the material isn’t suitable or not what you expected - you can and should reject the material.
  • If you are offered payment to take the material – be especially careful - don’t let anyone take advantage of you.