Play it safe around rivers, reservoirs and lochs this summer

Penwhirn Reservoir
Penwhirn Reservoir

Scottish Water is reminding people in Wigtownshire to play it safe in or near rivers, reservoirs and lochs this summer.

Scottish Water is advising people not to take risks around watercourses and calling on children and parents in particular to take care near water during the summer holidays and any spells of warm weather we might enjoy.

The latest figures show that a total of 407 people drowned accidentally in the UK in 2011, including 47 who were under 19-years-old. Almost half of the children and young people who died were aged 15 to 19 and drownings in this age group were mostly in a river or loch/lake, according to the National Water Safety Forum.

Bill Elliot, Scottish Water’s Regional Communities Manager for the area, said: “While it’s important that youngsters enjoy their school holidays and that people across Scotland take pleasure in the country’s beautiful lochs, rivers and reservoirs, it’s also vital that they stay safe.

“We are reminding parents to keep their children safe and asking adults to act responsibly around watercourses.”

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) is backing Scottish Water’s call. Carlene McAvoy, community safety development officer at RoSPA Scotland, said: “There tends to be a peak in the number of accidental drownings during periods of warm weather and, while it is important that people enjoy the great outdoors during the summer, it is advisable to consider the hazards, particularly when open water swimming.

“Avoid swimming near weirs, both upstream and downstream. Even on a hot day, the water might be a lot colder or deeper than you were expecting, there may be strong currents and underwater debris that you cannot see from the bank. This is why it is important to consider how you are going to get out of the water before you get in it, and be honest about your swimming ability.”

Reservoir dangers

Reservoirs are man-made features and have a number of unique hidden dangers such as dams, spillways (overflows) and water intakes (underwater pipe work that takes water out of the reservoir).

Mr Elliot added: “Natural hazards can lurk beneath the surface, where people can get entangled in vegetation or stuck in mud. Other dangers at reservoirs include steep banks and the majority of reservoirs are remote, so there is a lack of immediate assistance.”

For these reasons, and in the interests of our customers’ health and safety, Scottish Water does not encourage swimming or diving in any of our reservoirs.

Ms McAvoy added: “RoSPA’s advice is to go swimming at properly-supervised sites, such as beaches, lidos or swimming pools, although we appreciate that not everyone can get to these locations. We encourage parents and carers to discuss the dangers with their children and to remind them that children should never swim alone at unsupervised locations.”

Protect your pets

One of the biggest concerns with dog owners is when their pet dives into water, chasing a ball or stick. The pet more often survives such incidents, but the owners, who have attempted to save them, sometimes don’t. Dogs need to be kept on a lead if they are being walked near reservoirs and other bodies of open water.

If customers would like more information they can contact our Customer Helpline on 0845 601 8855 or www.scottishwater.co.uk/takecare. For more information on RoSPA visit their website at www.rospa.com.

Scottish Water’s advice comes as the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS), the drowning prevention charity, launches its Drowning Prevention Week campaign from June 22-30 to drive home water safety messages on how to stay safe in and around water.

Di Standley, RLSS UK chief executive, said: “If everyone stopped to think about basic water safety and made small changes to their behaviour, we are sure we could cut down the number of preventable, accidental drowning incidences that happen every year in the UK.”

For more information on safety, or how to get involved, visit the RLSS website at www.drowningpreventionweek.org.uk.