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Irrigation is predominantly used in Scotland for potato crops, also for salad crops, grass and soft fruits. These are grown most commonly in the east of Scotland , also in the north-east around Moray and in the west around Ayrshire. The east coast areas are in greater need of irrigation because of the drier climate and lighter soils. In the north-east there is also greater ware potato production, which requires more water than seed production. Abstractions of water from surface waters and groundwaters affect the natural hydrological cycle. Abstractions are most commonly made during dry periods when river flows are naturally low, exacerbating drought conditions. Small streams are particularly vulnerable because the instantaneous abstraction may constitute a high proportion of the natural flow. New regulations and charging systems are now being introduced (2006) by SEPA, with full controls over abstractions exceeding 10m3/day.Because of higher yields of arable crops, water requirements for agricultural purposes are increasing: Since 1950, the amount of water used has risen from 170mm annually to 300mm in 2000. Particularly eastern areas of Scotland , with a high percentage of crop production and low rainfall, are at risk of lack of water (Sylvester-Bradley, 2005). The possible impacts of climate change on the need for and availability of water for crop irrigation in Scotland is an area of concern. Clearly demand reduction through improved water management systems could reduce this potential problem, and this may in any case happen due to the imposition of higher charges.

Agricultural demand for water abstraction for irrigation purposes may continue to increase, causing localised problems with low flow rates and water table lowering. This could be exacerbated by changes in rainfall regimes possibly associated with a changing climate. Measures to control abstraction have now been extended throughout Scotland via the provisions of the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) ( Scotland ) Regulations 2005 (CAR) which affect all abstractions greater than 10m3/day, or impoundments where the height differential between the upstream and downstream water surfaces is greater than 1 metre. A new system of charging for abstracted water has been introduced by SEPA. This represents a significant increase in costs to the water abstractors and may add further pressure for the adoption of water conservation measures by farmers.

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