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24 September 2014
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A dried up reservoir in 1976
Reservoirs in 1976.

The drought of 1976

Thirty years after the droughts in the summer of 1976, Anisha Shah spoke to the people affected about their memories of conserving water, grass fires, farming difficulties and more...

Does 'Save water, bath with a friend,' ring any bells? Thirty years ago, it was THE message of the summer as a drought took a hold across the country in 1976. The hot summer not only gave us great sun tans, but also brought on hosepipe bans and grass fires! It was the last big drought we've experienced in this country, and we’ve been looking at how it affected different parts of the community in Staffordshire.

The water police!

Dennis Jones worked for the South Staffordshire water board over the hot summer of 1976, and was in charge of scouring the region for people using hosepipes or wasting water! According to him people in Staffordshire did very well to use less water and stick to the rules. People living and working in South Staffordshire were being praised for their efforts to cut water consumption, because when it came to it, they did it and exceeded all expectation.  Listen to Dennis’ interview to hear his story.

audio Listen - Dennis remembers enforcing the rules >
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Fighting fires

Women using a stand pipe in the drought of 1976
Stand pipes were used in the street.

Retired fire-fighter Michel Lockett was busy battling hundreds of grass fires across the region and his colleagues in the fire control room took up to 250 calls a day. He vividly remembers the drought of 1976 - as a very busy year indeed, attending calls one after the other through the day and night, with 17 Green Goddesses backing up the service relaying water back and too.

audio Listen - A firefighter talks about the grass fires >
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Dowsing for water

In 1976 people became very inventive at finding water when there hadn't been any rainfall for months. A method that was used, and still is used to find water underground is dowsing. BBC Radio Stoke’s Anisha Shah tried the ancient tradition of tapping into the energy fields of water.

audio Listen - Dowsing for water >
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Farming in the heat

Farmer Roger Hockley describes the terrible conditions working on a farm, hay making and in the dust filled fields, most of the landscape was burnt, and only the trees looked like they were living. The livestock survived but needed extra feeding and looking after, one or two farms had to sell livestock - and he says lessons have been learnt for future years.

audio Listen - Farming during the 1976 drought >
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Government measures

During the long, hot, dry summer, Denis Howell was installed as the Minister for Drought. Emergency measures were brought in by the government, including new laws that prevented people wasting water. BBC Radio Stoke looked back at his life, and his success as the Government's first minister responsible for keeping people calm during a time of water shortage.

audio Listen - People remember the Drought Minister >
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last updated: 24/04/09
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