Experiences of drought

The experiences of droughts by people in the UK can vary considerably from being barely noticed to being so severe they create long-lasting memories that can be recalled in an instant. This is because although water is essential for life and we’d all notice if we did not have a reasonable level of access to it for drinking, cooking, and hygiene, we are fortunate to have benefitted from many years of progress in water engineering which has resulted in our generally having security of supply. More information.

For the Historic Drought Project, Dr Rebecca Pearce has been recording oral histories of droughts from across the UK. These can be accessed via the Historic Drought Inventory which includes a large collection of corresponding news reports and drought records as well as the audio recordings. To get the most from this resource, Rebecca has started the Who’d Have Thought That, About Drought Podcast series which explores the oral history collection and newspaper inventory in detail and analysis of the social impacts of droughts from 1890 to the present day.

Podcasts: Who’d have thought that?

1976: Fire, Heat, and Uniforms

“For lots of people, 1976 was a great time for outdoor fun and quite often just sun-bathing. For those who had important roles protecting the health and safety of the nation often they were not able to dress down.”


Water Saving in the Westcountry in 1976

“I had to have the five-gallon container in the pushchair and stagger along the road to fill the blessed thing up and then heave it into the pushchair and then push that back with [18 month old] Becky beside me.”


Water Saving Campaigns in focus: 1976, 1983 and Yorkshire in 1995

View the transcript of this podcast.

Scammenden Dam, 1995, © Nick Wilding
Scammenden Dam, 1995, © Nick Wilding

“we got a phone call from a chap from Bodmin. He said, “I heard your appeal on the radio to save water, I just want to let you know, that I’m off on holiday for two weeks, and I’m locking up the house, but I’ve left all my taps on, and I hope you run out of water” and he put the phone down.”


Impact of the Media Drought in South-East England

“as soon as you have these drought type conditions and people start questioning what you’re doing, it begs so many questions about the ethic approach that you should be taking, and the ethical questions are all about… Is it right, then, to hold a flower show at all, or shouldn’t we hold it?”


© Dr Rebecca Pearce, University of Exeter, 2018