The lack of rain here over the last couple of months has unfortunately meant that the water crisis has now reached critical point, something we never thought we’d see here on the usually rain-soaked and sodden St Kilda. The spring we source all our water from finally ran dry a couple of weeks ago, so we’ve been relying on water left in the storage tanks but this has reached extremely low levels, despite all our best efforts at conserving it (including scrounging showers from passing boats – thank you Hjalmar Bjorge!). It's thought that it'll take many weeks of rain to get back to normal again. The irony of living on a small island surrounded by water but with not a drop to drink has not passed us by.
Barrels full of sea water for flushing our toilets!
The Elektron, the landing craft that comes out several times over the summer, is due out at the start of July, and will be bringing out a mobile desalination plant so that we can produce fresh clean drinking water, but until that arrives the challenge is to survive on the minimum amount of water. This meant that the Base was reduced to the minimum staffing level of 3 folk last weekend (contrary to the media coverage the island has not been evacuated!), and all the NTS staff and bird researchers got an unexpected long weekend on Benbecula, with the aim of eking out the water that is left as long as possible. We were very kindly put up by QinetiQ in the barracks there, and all enjoyed our treat of baths, washing machines, TV and chips.
Will, Sarah, George and Tony at the St Kilda International Airport Departure Lounge about to leave for the bright lights of the Western Isles
The island is currently back up to more or less normal staffing levels, with the exception of George, the NTS Archaeologist, who is working at the Inverness office for a few weeks, but we are all doing our utmost to use as little water as we can. As Tony, one of our PhD researchers, pointed out, all the restrictive measures actually seem to have made the lives of the NTS and research staff a lot easier – we get bottled drinking water delivered to the door, we are eating on the Base to save on water use during food preparation, are using paper plates so there’s no washing up, and even get to send our laundry off to Benbecula to be service-washed. The only big downside is that we are getting pretty smelly due to the lack of regular showers, but I guess at least we’re all in the same boat. And the entertainment value of seeing what all the guys look like with newly-grown beards due to the lack of shaving water is keeping me amused – we are all starting to look more and more St Kildan with each passing day!
Sarah, Seabird and Marine Ranger