• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

The new gold: why water could be one of Scotland's biggest exports

As far as I'm concerned and I can't believe too many people would disagree, the rain in Scotland is a total downer.

It's like an unwelcome house guest you can't get rid of, who you know is here for the duration but that you still utterly resent - a right misery-guts who always puts a dampener on things. A bigger spoilsport than a Wee Free Minister.

Wholly negative attributes emphasised by the fact that it's never been any other way. Scotland is rainy, always has been, always will be.

Which, of course, doesn't mean we have to like it. We don't.

Whereas, in Australia, rain is treated like the return of the prodigal son. Only one who turns up a lot less regularly.

Where I live, in the Victorian mountains, it has barely rained for 6 months, the odd crazed thundery storm aside. When one of them arrives, it's like the rain is showing off. The winds heave and hurl, there's a spectacular light show all around - sound included and it absolutely buckets down… but only for a short while.

After half an hour or so, it shoots through, quite literally leaving a few pools of surface water which are soon burnt off by the sun which duly arrives the next day at his scalding and scorching worst.

Way too hot to sunbathe unless you're completely mental. Or a British tourist, many of whom you still see on the beach in high summer, cooking their bodies like chunky cut crisps in a deep fat fryer.

High winds and temperatures have an all too familiar consequence in areas of massive bushland like we have here. Sustained, nervous, tense days on constant fire alert which for many people living in vulnerable locales - more or less everyone in Oz not in the immediate vicinity of a big city - encompasses an inconvenient truth.

No matter what your fire plan is, no matter how assiduous you are in clearing flammables away from your property, in fact, regardless of what you do - you're still at major risk. If a fire takes hold around your place - and if the wind is strong enough and blowing in your direction, then all you can do is run. And the sooner you run the better.

The landscape here in the bucolic hamlet of Swifts Creek has been as dry as Sunday in Stornoway since last October. It's not too pretty to look at - yellowy-grey hills and valleys, but much more significantly if like me, you own animals which need to graze - is the utter lack of feed.

Standing in a field almost bereft of any green at all - (even the weeds are monochrome), nose to the ground, attempting to hoover up the slightest morsel isn't going to sustain any animal, cow, sheep or horse. (Even the rabbits struggle to survive, so it's not completely bad news).

And here's the rub. Animal cruelty issues aside, hay has to be bought - lots of it - and at a price which rises commensurately and perfectly logically in strict accordance with its scarceness.

Yes, it's been a tough year so far. Day after day after day of constant sunshine and high temperatures. And no rain. None, whatsoever.

I tell you, it's been hell.

Except, last week, the rains finally came. Rode into town like a returning local hero who'd been away at the Crusades and was presumed killed. Or something.

It p****d down. For 8 hours straight. Not a deluge, not anything close to resembling a flood, but steady 'good' rain as it's known here.

Soaking rain. Welcome rain.

At times like this, a major inundation is not only the rain itself but the number of callers to local radio - most of who don't seem to have too much going on in their lives - who triumphantly relate how much of the wet stuff they've managed to capture in their rain gauges.

I don't know anyone in Scotland who has a rain gauge. What'd be the point? It'd always be full.

Which brings me to my point. (Yes, there is one).

Australia is the driest country in the world by some way. It's also one of the richest, with the most available land space and is therefore, notwithstanding Aussie rednecks who despite being immigrants themselves seem to think immigration is a very bad thing - one plum ripe for massive expansion.

The rest of the world has the people, Australia's got the space. Thousands of miles of it, in fact. What it doesn't have is the means to irrigate.

Whilst we in Scotland have a lot more rain than we need. A hell of a lot more than we could ever need.

So, if we could find a way to export it - in sufficient quantities that is - we'd clean up. It'd be like gold - water would - it could be the new gold, quoted on the stock market and used as primary indicator of wealth, a liquid reserve continually replenished, a water fountain that never ever runs dry.

If I was a Scottish nationalist - and thank God I'm not - I'd be onto that one right away.

There's even a ready-made slogan. Well, nearly.

'It's oor ile. Oh aye, an' it's oor watter as well'.

Contextual targeting label: 
Weather

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

225071