'Worrying increase' in number of people swimming in Yorkshire reservoirs during lockdown

There has been a "worrying increase" in the number of people swimming reservoirs in Yorkshire during lockdown, it has been revealed.

Monday, 26th April 2021, 4:45 pm

Yorkshire Water and West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) have backed the National Fire Chiefs Council’s (NFCC) Be Water Aware campaign after more than 120 incidents of swimming in Yorkshire Water’s reservoirs since July 2020.

With pools closed many people have turned to lakes and reservoirs for exercise this year.

Yorkshire Water's Gaynor Craigie said: “During lockdown we have seen a worrying increase in the number of reported incidents of people getting into our reservoirs to swim recreationally or simply to have a dip and cool off."

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Baitings Reservoir, near Ripponden (photo: Yorkshire Water).

Yorkshire Water also warned of the dangers of currents, hidden machinery and the possibility of cold-water shock.

According to the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) 223 people accidentally drowned in the UK in 2019, with 44 per cent of those deaths occurring in inland water.

Ms Craigie added: “We know the importance of exercise and visiting the countryside as a boost to mental health, particularly over recent months, but safety must remain paramount.

"Entering a reservoir is dangerous.

“Low water temperatures can cause cold water shock that may lead to hyperventilation, increased blood pressure, breathing difficulties and ultimately death.”

The NFCC Be Water Aware campaign runs from April 26 - May 2 and is part of the National Drowning Prevention Strategy which aims to cut water-related deaths by 50 per cent by 2026.

Lee Miller, district officer for Wakefield at WYFRS said: "Cold water shock can kill, as can many of the other risks that open water poses.

“Last year, we in WYFRS responded to 38 water rescues across the county, be that because someone had fallen in and needed help to get out or because they had got into difficulty after getting into the water thinking it would be safe.

“With many open water sites in Wakefield in particular but across the whole of West Yorkshire, we work all year round to help people understand the risks around open water, develop ours and our partners’ risk assessments, place new signage in areas, implement safety equipment and undertake joint training with other key agencies across West Yorkshire.

“Please, if you are enjoying the beautiful countryside that West Yorkshire has to offer, please do so safely. And importantly, remember that if you or someone needs help call 999 and ask for the Fire Service immediately – our crews are trained and equipped to deal with such incidents.”