SCOTLAND cannot rule out water restrictions this summer as the majority of the country is now impacted by water scarcity, according to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa).

Below average rainfall in Scotland this May has worsened water scarcity in recent weeks, with the area around Loch Maree being raised to "Moderate Scarcity", Sepa’s second highest risk level.

Meanwhile, 12 other parts of Scotland have reached "Alert" status – Sepa’s third highest – while most of the rest of the country is at the lower "Early Warning" stage.

READ MORE: 'Why so late in the day?': Mark Drakeford criticises UK bid to block glass from DRS

The head of water and planning at Sepa, Nathan Critchlow-Watton, said: “The water scarcity picture in Scotland is just one of the consequences of climate change the country faces, and its frequency and severity is only likely to increase in the future.

“This is a crucial time of year for water demand, but with no rain in the forecast we cannot rule out needing to impose restrictions over the summer.

"Abstractors must manage water wisely in the coming weeks and months and should already have contingency plans in place in case restrictions are needed to avoid long-term damage to the environment and fish populations.”

Last year saw Scotland’s first ever water ban, with some farms, distilleries and other businesses stopped from using water they collected from rivers and inland bodies of water.

Scottish Water is now asking customers to use water as efficiently as possible, as reservoirs sit at lower levels than normal for this time of year.

The Clyde, parts of Dumfries and Galloway, and South Lanarkshire are presently among the worst affected areas, as are parts of the northwest Highlands.

Kes Juskowiak, Scottish Water’s general manager of customer water services, said: “The recent dry weather has seen an increase in customer use and an additional 100 million litres of water had to be distributed each day across the weekend and on Monday.

“We’re working hard to maintain normal supplies for all but would ask that customers consider how they use water and to protect this precious resource.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson agrees to hand over 'unredacted' WhatsApp messages to Covid inquiry

“We believe that a large part of the additional water use is within gardens so we would ask that customers are mindful of how much water they use in outdoor spaces such as lawns.”

Sepa projects that rainfall will continue to be below average next week, and that water scarcity could worsen in the coming weeks.

The agency has called users of Scotland’s water supply to look out for dry private water supplies and areas where rivers and burns are running lower than normal, encouraging them to contact