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Adapting to drought & high temperatures

In recent years, there have been increasing concerns about the occurrence of drought conditions and higher temperatures in Scotland. SEPA reported that in 2018 there was a significant drop in average rainfall over the winter months, followed by an unprecedented dry summer with hotter temperatures and heatwaves in the North East of Scotland. This resulted in farmers having to irrigate more than normal, depleting the natural store of water, which was not replenished over the unusually dry winter. Projections for Scotland indicate that even under a low emissions pathway, there will be a 50% chance of each summer being hotter than that of 2018.

Soil moisture deficits have also risen since the 1980s resulting in increased drought risk in the east of Scotland, therefore, demand for irrigation is expected to rise. Furthermore, insurance claims for fire damage in 2018 rose by around 20% from 2017. While the news regularly has stories of wildfires worldwide in countries including Australia, Brazil and the USA, in 2019 the UK broke its record for the largest burnt area (29,334 hectares) and highest number of annual fires (135). Titles that were previously held by the year 2018.

Download the adaptation checklist to see what additional actions you may want to consider to improve your farms resilience to drought and high temperatures.


Water Storage and Supply

drinking water for livestock

Streams, rivers and groundwater sources used for irrigation, livestock or private drinking water supply may be at risk of drying up during drought conditions.

Water &Heat Stess (crops)

desiccation cracks in the middle of a field

Many crops will not be able to cope with water stress and yields may be effected by drought through reduced growth, smaller grain size and yield.

Water & Heat Stess (livestock)

sheep under the cover of trees

Water and heat stress, lack of shade and relief from direct sunlight on a hot day can lead to dehydration, illness and potentially death of livestock.


wildfire in dry grass field

Prolonged dry periods such as heatwaves can lead to wildfires, often caused by human activity (either intentionally or accidentally). Impacts include destruction if crops, grassland, heath and peatland.

What can you do now to help future proof the business?

While the future impact of drought within Scotland is unknown, and will likely vary annually, it is important to be prepared for all outcomes to safeguard your business. By ensuring that you have some back up provisions for providing water and shade you can minimise the impact of high temperatures and water shortages on your farm. Providing habitats for pollinators such as cover crops, wildflower meadows, green roofs, and halting habitat fragmentation can assist crops and can also reduce the effects of extreme dry or wet periods by improving soil water retention and reducing erosion and diffuse pollution risks.

Further information:

CC Adaptation Checklist


This document provides a climate change adaptation checklist for your business so that various climate change adaptation measures can be considered. This will help you determine the most suitable and effective methods for improving resilience to climate change on your farm. Additionally, the topics examined throughout this document will provide suggestions and ideas that can aid in the development of an Emergency Action Plan for your business.



Click here to download your copy