Three parts of the north Highlands have been placed in the most severe water scarcity level by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa).
Helmsdale, Naver and the Wick area of Caithness have all been warned there is “significant scarcity” of water resources, due to low river levels, in the organisation’s latest report.
Other parts of northern Scotland, as well as the Western Isles and Orkney, have been placed in the next most serious level, which is “moderate scarcity”.
Only two parts of the country have been assessed to be in “normal conditions”, incorporating parts of Moray and the southern Highlands.
The weekly water scarcity reports are produced by Sepa to highlight the issue of a lack of water resources across the country, and to encourage businesses to change their practices and become more resilient to extended dry weather.
The latest placements come despite several days of heavy rainfall, which led to some flooding in parts of the Highlands and north-east.
However, the environmental body said in a post on Facebook that “heavy showers did not make up for shortfalls in rainfall”, adding that regions currently most affected by scarcity did not have much rain.
The report says: “In the north-east, the recent heavy rainfall has led to recovery in ground conditions in the Conon and the Spey and Dee catchments.
“Further recovery across the north-east by next week is possible due to current heavy rainfall, but a prolonged dry period may still cause rapid deterioration in conditions.”
Advice to save water
Farmers in the areas coloured yellow, orange and red on the map are being asked to rethink their approach to irrigation, particularly if they take water from burns and rivers.
In the report, Sepa asks that farmers only irrigate when, and only as much as, absolutely necessary; that they ensure equipment is not leaking and try to irrigate at night to minimise evaporation; and that they consider switching to groundwater if conditions worsen.
Managers of golf courses in those areas are advised to do the same.