Reservoir swimming can kill, that’s the message Severn Trent Water are issuing ahead of the expected June heat wave across the UK. Every year, scores of people drown in reservoirs because they don’t know the dangers; one in ten of the 400 drowning fatalities over the past decade have been children*.
A number of people have already been caught swimming in Severn Trent reservoirs, unaware that they’re putting their life at risk. While many think it’s a welcoming and harmless idea to take a cooling dip in scenic surroundings; reservoirs are both freezing in temperature and dangerously uneven in depth.
Ted Pearce, head of property services at Severn Trent said: “To give people an idea, one of our reservoirs is as deep as a nine story building – or six double-decker buses and freezing in temperature. People need to think before they get in the water; reservoirs are dangerous places and even the strongest of swimmers can get into difficulty.
“The chances of developing hypothermia within a couple of minutes, even in high summer temperatures, are extremely high and due to the effects of the freezing water on the body, swimmers are left completely powerless to swim to safety. In addition to the water, which rarely rises above 8 degrees Celsius, the floors of reservoirs are uneven and a depth of a few feet can quickly turn into a few hundred feet.”
The water company, which owns twelve reservoirs across Derbyshire, Leicestershire, mid-Wales and the Midlands, say that their reservoirs are built with the sole purpose of supplying water to their customers, and not for swimming. Not always visible, all reservoirs have very strong currents due to water being pumped in and out. The pumping process means that as well as strong currents there can be pumping equipment and machinery just below the surface adding to the danger.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) is also keen to stress the importance of not swimming in reservoirs. David Walker, leisure safety manager for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), said: “When the weather hots up, we understand the temptation to go swimming in a reservoir, but there are many hazards in reservoirs.
“Things to remember are that the water might be a lot colder and deeper than you expect, and the key risk is cold water shock, while there may be strong currents and underwater debris which may lead to even the most experienced swimmer getting into difficulties.
“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.”
Ted added: “Our reservoirs store millions of litres of fresh water before it is treated and sent to taps across our region. By all means come along and enjoy the lovely views, and take part in the various activities we have, but please, please, stay safe and stay out of the water.”
Feature Image: Elliott Brown