Stay Safe Around Scotland's Reservoirs and Watercourses This Summer

11 June 2024
Carron Valley reservoir with group of people sunbathing on the shore on a sunny day

Stay Safe

Beware of the dangers around our beautiful watercourses and reservoirs so you can enjoy them safely

Scottish Water is urging people to stay safe, behave responsibly and not take risks around watercourses such as reservoirs, rivers, lochs and beaches this summer.

The latest figures from the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) show that in 2023 there were a total of 47 accidental drownings in Scotland and 236 across the UK.
They also show that, in the past five years, there have been a total of 226 accidental drownings in Scotland and that the nation had a drowning rate of 8.63 per million people last year which was more than double the UK average of 3.49 per million.

The call from Scottish Water for people to stay safe follows some anti-social and dangerous behaviour by groups of young people in recent years at some of its reservoirs - including Milngavie in East Dunbartonshire, Picketlaw in Eaglesham, East Renfrewshire and Gladhouse in Midlothian - which included vandalism, littering and diving from water towers which are working parts of the reservoirs.

Peter Farrer, Scottish Water’s chief operating officer, said: “While people should enjoy any good weather we have this summer and take pleasure around the country’s beautiful lochs, reservoirs, rivers and beaches, it’s absolutely vital they stay safe at all times and behave responsibly.

“As a number of tragic deaths in Scotland in recent years have shown, safety is a serious issue in all bodies of water.

“At reservoirs, while the water may look harmless, there are many hidden dangers. We need to ensure everyone is aware of these hazards. We are reminding parents to keep their children safe and asking adults to act responsibly around reservoirs and other watercourses.”

“Remember that open water in Scotland tends to be much colder than anticipated and can lead to cold water shock - an involuntary response to the body being suddenly immersed in cold water that can affect your ability to move, swim, and breathe.”

Carlene McAvoy
Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA)


Deep, cold water is a particular danger at reservoirs, which are working parts of Scottish Water’s infrastructure. Dams, steep banks, spillways (overflows), and underwater pipework can also present real hazards.

Many of the utility’s reservoirs are in remote locations, meaning a lack of immediate assistance and mobile phone reception can be poor. In the interests of public safety, Scottish Water does not encourage swimming in its reservoirs.

The company’s reservoir safety advice is also targeted at pet owners. One of the biggest concerns with dog owners is when their pet gets in trouble in the water and the owner dives in to help. Sometimes the dog survives but the owner doesn’t.

Drowning Prevention Week

The Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK), a national charity and leader in lifesaving and lifeguarding training across the UK and Ireland, is backing Scottish Water’s advice and is launching its annual national Drowning Prevention Week campaign from 15-22 June 2024. 

Aimed at young children and families, the widespread initiative seeks to ensure as many people as possible are equipped with vital lifesaving knowledge that will keep them and their families safe in, on, and around water.

Matt Croxall, Head of Charity at the RLSS UK, said: “In the last five years, west-central Scotland has been named as the area with the most accidental drownings of 36, which is over three times higher than the Scottish average. 

“With the summer holidays coming and families enjoying staycations across popular destinations in Scotland, it is even more vital that everyone understands what to do if you find yourself or someone else in trouble in the water.

"Bringing water safety to the forefront of everyone’s mind, Drowning Prevention Week equips people with the appropriate skills and knowledge to be summer-ready when it comes to being safe in and around water during the summer months and beyond.”

Also supporting Scottish Water’s call, Carlene McAvoy, Senior Policy Manager, at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), said: “On warm days, it can be tempting to enter the water to cool down but please remember that open water in Scotland tends to be much colder than anticipated and can lead to cold water shock. Cold water shock is an involuntary response to the body being suddenly immersed in cold water. It can affect your ability to move, swim, and breathe.
“We recommend learning more about cold water shock and water safety in general by learning the Water Safety Code and knowing what to do in an emergency. All this information is freely available on the Water Safety Scotland website.”

Water Safety Video

Watch this Water Safety Scotland video for advice on how to stay safe around open watercourses


A team of Scottish Water reservoir rangers is helping visitors enjoy some of the country’s most popular locations and promoting safety at reservoirs. The rangers patrol some of our major reservoirs – at Milngavie in East Dunbartonshire, Gladhouse in Midlothian and Carron Valley, North Third, and Kilpatrick Hills in Stirlingshire.

As they prepare to increase their interaction with visitors at the reservoirs this summer, Davy Gray, Scottish Water’s rangers’ team manager, said: “Regular visitors to our reservoirs will no doubt be aware of our signage alerting them to potential hazards around and below the water and we encourage everyone to read them. 

“On top of that, however, our rangers will be chatting with them to engage in a bit more detail on all aspects of water safety. They’ll be promoting the best practice guidance that Scottish Water and the key member agencies in Water Safety Scotland have created. This is more specific to their chosen activity; be it paddleboarding, kayaking, angling, or swimming.”

Meanwhile, the vision of the Learn to Swim National Framework - a unique partnership between Scottish Water and Scottish Swimming - is to create ‘Generation Swim’, a generation of safe and competent swimmers, who will also experience the wider health and social benefits swimming can offer.
Swimming is a hugely valuable life skill that helps people to be safer – whether at their local pool, the beach on holiday or coastal waters, rivers, reservoirs, and lochs.

Across Scotland, the Learn to Swim National Framework is currently being delivered by 39 leisure trusts and aquatic providers, in more than 165 pools, with around 80,000 children learning to swim each week.

Drowning prevention is one of the main objectives and in June each year, the Learn to Swim programme does a major water safety push to coincide with Drowning Prevention Week. In partnership with Water Safety Scotland, Scottish Water will also once again host a Water Safety Open Day in support of World Drowning Prevention Day on Thursday 25 July. 

The day is free to attend and open to all and aims to help equip people with water safety knowledge and skills to help them make the right decisions when they are in, on or around water, particularly during the summer months. There will also be active demonstrations and over 20 stallholders at Loch Lomond Shores, Balloch from 11 am - 4 pm.

More Information

For more safety information you can contact Scottish Water’s Customer Helpline on 0800 0778778 or visit Scottish Water - Water Safety

More information is available on the following links on the RLSS UK  Drowning Prevention Week and Water Safety Code 

More information on Water Safety Scotland and free educational resources available for children of all ages, for use in the classroom as well as at youth groups, is available here.

You can access the Water Safety Code in other languages here: WSS Water Safety Code & Language translations