“The trees in Bristol are a massive player in the way water is controlled underground…”

Anthony, from Bristol, UK, recalls the drought of 1976 and the way that the local community rallied to use grey water to keep the city’s trees alive. He describes the continuing, important role that trees play in regulating Bristol’s water.

Anthony: My name is Anthony, and I live locally in Bristol. I recall, in 1976, where the drought was really very bad, ordinary people walking down with bowls and buckets of water, grey water, waste water that would have been washing up water probably, to feed the trees or to give the trees some sustenance, in triangle west. They had a rota going, as I understand it. I spoke to some people, after the event, and they said they’d actually got it all organised. That people were actually doing this to keep these going.

Ordinary people. They were coming out of the flats, on the top of Jacob’s Well road, as I recall. So the bottom of Triangle South, Triangle West. As it happened, I think about two or three weeks later, I again saw people doing this and I asked them what was going on then. I was walking, at that stage. Whereas, the previous time, I had actually been on the bus and they said individuals had started doing it. This is the way stuff happens, individuals doing things and we all coalesces and we all work, as a community. Ordinary people doing great stuff.

Bristol has now cut all it’s funding to sustaining street trees, in this city. And this has a massive bearing on the way the water system works, throughout Bristol, because the trees are a massive player on the way water is controlled underground and Bristol has now taken away all the funding to maintain its street trees. We are going to see trees cut down. It is all very well to argue that before they are cut down people will trip over, houses will start cracking and various other things but the other fundamental thing that is going to happen is we are going to change, for a very, very long time, our sub soil drainage system. There is lots in Bristol which depend on trees soaking up waste water, because the way driveways and other things are being done we are still pouring water straight into the drainage system and until fairly recently that went into the floating harbour and what used to happen at the floating harbour when we knew we were going to get a storm or a surge and all the rest, the level of the floating harbour was dropped by 18 inches or something. I can’t remember now. It’s a vast area, something like 40 acres. And I remember thinking that is a great plan but do you know how long that lasts? If there is a flash storm, in Bristol, that lasts about half an hour and, after half an hour, we are back to square one again. So that’s pretty serious. The trees, to a certain extent, are helping us and they need to keep helping us.

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