Know The Risks

While reservoir waters are highly appealing and inviting, particular on a warm day, there are many hidden dangers that are not immediately obvious. Unfortunately, people drown every year in Scotland.  
In 2023, there were 236* water-related fatalities in the UK. That’s 236 people who didn’t make it back home to their families - 47 of them were in Scotland. *Source: National Water Safety Forum

Often this includes people who has no intention of going into the water, so even being near it can pose a risk. It is important that everyone is aware of the danger’s reservoirs pose. 

One Last Breath video

Watch this film from Welsh Water which captures the dangers of swimming in a reservoir and shows the devastating consequences if those dangers are ignored.

Watch the video here

Hidden dangers

The water might seem to be very calm but looks can be deceiving and there are many dangers:

  • Reservoirs are deep and the water just below the surface is icy cold, even in summer. Cold water can send your body into shock in seconds. 
  • Reservoirs have strong water currents, which combined with the deep cold water can challenge even the strongest of swimmers. 
  • There could be hidden underwater obstacles – such as pipework or stone and concrete structures. If you dive in, you don’t know what you might hit. 
  • Steep, slippery banks can make it tricky to get back out of the water. 
  • You won’t find lifesaving equipment at reservoirs, so relying on someone else to save you could put their life in danger too. 
  • If you do get into trouble, mobile reception is patchy to often non-existent at many remote reservoir locations. So calling for help isn’t quick or easy. 
  • Some reservoirs have air curtains – millions of bubbles aerating the water to disperse potential impurities like algae. But these bubbles create negative buoyancy, so if you swam into this area, you would struggle to stay afloat. That goes for boats too. 

What to do in an emergency

If you get into difficulty and need help or medical assistance, please follow these steps: 

  • Phone the emergency services on 999. When the operator asks which service, state: police. 
  • Provide accurate details of the incident and location (grid references are very useful) – if you are in remote location with difficult access, it is important to emphasise this. 
  • The Police will assess the situation and send help. 

Useful Resources

There’s lots of great information about water safety from our partner agencies. Take a look:

Learn To Swim

Go Safe Scotland

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service



Outdoor Access Scotland

Police Scotland

Royal Life Saving Society Scotland

Water Safety Scotland

Education Scotland National Improvement Hub


If you have any comments or concerns about our reservoirs, please contact our Customer Helpline on 0800 0778 778.