Stay Safe Around Reservoirs this Winter

26 November 2020

Reservoir Safety

Watch our short video which highlights the importance of staying safe around watercourses

Scottish Water is urging people to stay safe around reservoirs and other watercourses this winter.
The public water and waste water organisation is advising people to be vigilant and not to take risks around freezing cold reservoirs, lochs and rivers and any parts of watercourses that are covered in ice.
Although people enjoy winter walks or runs around reservoirs, lochs and rivers - and may be out more often this winter due to Coronavirus restrictions - they should stay safe and act responsibly when near open water.
Scottish Water’s key advice is that:
  • People should not go too close to the edge because they could slip and fall in
  • Adults should keep children safe
  • And dogs should be kept on a lead if they are being walked near reservoirs and other bodies of open water

“While we really want everybody to get out and enjoy Scotland’s beautiful waterways throughout the year, we urge them to do so safely”

Carlene McAvoy
Community Safety Development Manager, RoSPA Scotland
Scottish Water is also advising people about the hidden dangers in reservoirs and urging them to be particularly careful if they visit one.

Reservoirs are man-made features which have unique dangers such as dams, spillways (overflows) and hidden water intakes (underwater pipe work that takes water out of the reservoir) and other hazards common to natural bodies of water, such as reeds, strong currents, steep banks and deep cold water.

As the majority of Scottish Water's reservoirs are situated in remote locations, there is also a lack of immediate assistance. For these reasons, and in the interests of public safety, Scottish Water does not encourage swimming or diving in any of its reservoirs.

Peter Farrer, Scottish Water’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “Natural hazards can lurk beneath the surface, where children and adults can get entangled in vegetation or stuck in mud. As the majority of reservoirs are remote, there is a lack of immediate assistance because the emergency services often can’t get to the area quickly. 

“Water safety is a priority and we are urging people to stay safe this winter around reservoirs and any other bodies of water.”

Scottish Water’s safety message is being supported by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), Police Scotland and the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

Carlene McAvoy, community safety development manager for RoSPA Scotland, said: “In 2019, there were unfortunately 37 accidental deaths in Scotland due to drowning or submersion. A lot of these deaths will be of people who did not intend to be in the water, for example joggers and dog walkers. 

“While we really want everybody to get out and enjoy Scotland’s beautiful waterways throughout the year, we urge them to do so safely. If you walk out onto frozen water there is no way of knowing whether it is going to hold your weight. If you are out walking, please take care around the edges of lochs, reservoirs and rivers. 

“If a pet runs out onto the ice or jumps into the water, please do not go after them. We encourage parents to educate their children about the potentially-deadly dangers of walking on frozen water, and how to float to live if exposed to cold water shock, as children are among those most at risk.”

Chief Superintendent David Duncan, (Partnerships, Prevention and Community Wellbeing) at Police Scotland, said: "Winter, and the festive period, brings increased demands on all the emergency services, and the partner organisations which work alongside the blue light services.

"With the current restrictions on travel and socialising as a result of Coronavirus (COVID-19), more people may be out walking in their local areas than might usually be, as well as exploring new locations. 

“The best advice is to avoid open water, be it frozen or not, and don't put yourself, your children or your pets at risk. It's impossible to tell how thick ice is at a glance, and water temperatures beneath broken ice can quickly make someone hypothermic. Please, stay safe near water this winter." 

One of the biggest concerns with dog owners is when their pet experiences difficulties after diving in to water, chasing a ball or stick. The pet more often survives such incidents, but the owners, who have attempted to save them, may not.

Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn, of the Scottish SPCA, said: “We receive lots of reports each year where people have tried to rescue their pet from a frozen lake or river, and often the consequences are tragic. Please keep dogs on the lead around waterways as they can be at risk of falling through ice.
“If your pet has fallen through ice then you should call the fire and rescue service and wait for assistance. Never go out onto the ice after an animal as, while the ice may be able to hold the weight of a dog, it’s unlikely to hold the weight of a human.

“Dogs can also pose a danger to waterfowl and other wildlife so please make sure they are under control at all times if there are wild animals in the area. Sadly, we often receive calls where dogs have injured or even killed wildlife and incidents like these can be easily avoided simply by keeping dogs on the lead.”

He added: “If you spot an animal in distress near or in water this year, be that a domestic pet, livestock or wildlife, please call our animal helpline on 03000 999 999.”

Scottish Water is one of 10 partners involved in the Go Safe Scotland online education resource that has been developed to provide young people in Scotland with a variety of key safety messages, one of which is water safety.