‘In 1976 our water was switched off for 6 weeks, for 18 hours a day…’

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Mike remembers the difficulties of domestic life in the hills of South Wales during the summer of 1976, when a lack of water affected cleanliness and led to ingenuity in terms of water siphoning.

In the summer of 1976 I had a four-year-old and a two-year-old. I was living 650 foot up the Mountainside above Risca. Our water was switched off for 6 weeks for 18 hours a day. The period of water supply was midnight to 6 a.m. But because of our altitude the water pressure didn’t usually come up until at least 1 a.m in the morning. So it led to some very interesting lacks of sleep and some very interesting changes in practices as regards when we did domestic tasks. Certainly, no one-shower per person per day. With small children it was easy enough for them to go in the bath together. I usually allowed my good lady the luxury of going in the bath before I then went into the same water. We also set up a siphoning system to siphon all the bathwater into a large 40 gallon barrel in the next door neighbour’s garden and we were obviously, literally washing up dirty dishes once a week and having to minimize clothes washing as well. I imagine the whole family were probably not quite as clean as we hopefully are now and I think to some extent I’m still very conscious of things like when I’m washing up how often I put the dishwasher on shutting, the tap off when I’m cleaning my teeth, that kind of thing as well.

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