Was there a drought in 1976 after the great heat wave?

Boy during the 1976 drought in England

Edgbaston Reservoir in Birmingham looking dry in August 1976 (Image: Birmingham Post and Mail Archive/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images)

Britain endures another heat wave – after July 2022 the temperature reached a record high of 40°C.

Continued hot temperatures of up to 35°C in August – along with the driest July in 111 years – have led to snake bans in parts of the country, as well as drought being declared in England.

Naturally, many will reflect on the extreme weather and how it compares to previous heatwaves from previous years.

One of Britain’s most famous heatwaves happened in 1976 – but did it also lead to drought conditions?

Well, you can probably guess…

Was there a drought in 1976 after the great heat wave?

To keep things simple: Yes, the 1976 heat wave actually led to a drought.

The reservoir dried up during the 1976 drought

A Northampton reservoir dried up in July 1976 (Photo by Wesley/Keystone/Getty Images)

The heat wave took place 46 years ago now – but was a memorable 15 days (from 23 June to 7 July) for those who lived it, as temperatures rose to a peak of 35.6°C.

It was a record high at the time, and the prolonged warm spell did not help the fact that since 1975 the country had experienced particularly dry conditions.

Things were particularly bad in July and August 1976.

Hoses were turned off and people saw lakes and reservoirs dry up as water was rationed.

Countryfile reports that thousands of fish and birds died due to the drought. A swarm of hungry ladybirds also began to plague the country’s towns and villages.

Drought sign 1976

Drought warning signs appeared in 1976 (Image: Frank Barratt/Keystone/Getty Images)
Labor politician Denis Howell (left) became interim minister for drought – as well as being minister for sport (Image: Monti Spry/Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Many fields and gardens lost their green, with pictures from the time showing beige fields and even the Sussex County Cricket Ground almost devoid of any green.

Big Ben in London even broke down for a few weeks as its mechanisms were affected by the sheer heat.

But worst affected were people in South Wales, some of whom had their water turned off for a period reported 17 hours a day, according to the BBC – switched off at 14 and returned the following morning.

Things got so bad that Parliament had to pass the Drought Act by 6 August and install MP Denis Howell as Minister for Drought – introducing various measures to conserve water.

At the end of August though, some rain finally came… quite a lot of it too. Mr. Howell quickly earned the nickname ‘Minister of Floods’.

MORE : Drought to be declared in England today with temperatures reaching 35°C

MORE : When was the last hose ban in the UK and how can you save water during one?

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