Reservoir Safety

Reservoirs are large, often open, areas of water which are used to store water prior to treatment. In the winter they sometimes freeze over and look like a natural ice rink and on hot days people are often tempted to cool off with a swim. Reservoirs may look inviting but don't be fooled - they can be dangerous places and swimming in them or falling over on the ice can soon become fatal.

It doesn't matter how strong a swimmer you are, swimming in reservoirs is extremely dangerous. Within minutes of a swimmer disappearing beneath the surface it is often too late for the emergency services to help as they have to wait for specialist equipment to arrive.

Why is it dangerous to swim?

The dangers of swimming in reservoirs and open water include:

  • It can be deep. You cannot tell how deep the water is and there are often sudden drops which you cannot see

  • Reservoirs are often in isolated places. No matter how quickly you call for help it can be too late to help anyone in trouble

  • There may be hidden currents. These may be from our pipes which you cannot see or hear but will affect your ability to swim

  • There may be hidden obstacles beneath the surface. This may be machinery from our treatment works or even broken glass or other rubbish which has been thrown in

  • It may be difficult to get out. The sides of reservoirs are very steep in places, making it difficult to climb out. There can also be silt or mud on the bottom created when the levels reduce

  • There might be blue green algae in the water. From time to time blue green algae can build up at the water's edge. It is not always visible to the naked eye but can produce toxins that cause skin rashes and stomach upsets. In case of contact wash immediately with clean water

  • It is always very cold. The temperatures in reservoirs rarely get above 10 degrees, even in summer. This is cold enough to take your breath away, which is the body's natural reaction, and can lead to panic and drowning. Cold can also make your arms and legs numb which means you can't control them and can't swim. It can lead to hypothermia - serious reduction in your body temperature - which can cause heart failure

For More Information

Cold Water Shock

Diving Safety

Swimming Pool Safety

Last updated: Friday 26 July 2013