Multi-agency calls to prevent wildfire damage

28 June 2022

Article: 56/2515

On 17 June 2022, Scottish Water, along with Forestry and Land Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS), called for a raising of awareness to the risks of wildfires in order to prevent damage and to help protect the environment and water supplies. 

There have been at least 12 wildfires in the past five years on land owned and managed as water catchments, covering thousands of hectares in different parts of the country, including South Ayrshire and the Isle of Skye. Around 70% of Scotland’s public drinking water supply has its source in approximately 525,000 hectares of peatland and moorland. 

Wildfires can be very damaging to the natural environment, ecology and wildlife, such as nesting birds, voles, frogs and insects. As well as the potential impact on wildlife habitats, wildfires can burn valuable carbon stores, such as trees and peatland, releasing greenhouse gases back into the atmosphere and losing their ability to capture carbon. The damage to peatland is of particular concern given the long timeframes it takes to recover. In addition, the de-stabilisation of peatlands near watercourses and ashes from wildfires which get into water sources such as reservoirs, can lead to changes in raw water quality. 

Fire ashes cause high phenols, which pass through the water treatment process and react with chlorine to create taste and odour issues for customers. 

Fires can also expose soil, increasing the risk of run-off into source waters, which can put pressure on the treatment process at water treatment works. 

Source: Scottish Water, 17 June 2022