Warning to those tempted to swim in reservoirs this summer

Published 20th Apr 2023

Reservoirs are large, often open areas of water which are used to store water prior to treatment.

We have several in North Yorkshire and on hot days they often look tempting to cool off with a swim.

Although they can look like a lovely way to stay cool, please don’t be fooled. They can be extremely dangerous and swimming in them can soon become serious, or even fatal – even if you are a ‘strong swimmer’

Within minutes of a swimmer disappearing beneath the surface it is often too late for the emergency services to help – because of the location of most reservoirs, specialist equipment is needed we may need to wait for this to arrive.

So, why are reservoirs so dangerous?

  • They can be deep – you cannot see how deep the water is and often there are sudden drops which you cannot see
  • They are always very cold – even on the hottest of days, the temperatures in reservoirs rarely get above 10 degrees causing cold water shock, your body’s natural reaction which can lead to panic and drowning.
  • They are often located in isolated places and no matter how quickly you call for help, it can be too late
  • There may be hidden currents and these may be from pipes which you cannot see or hear but will affect your ability to swim
  • There may be hidden obstacles beneath the surface – this could even be from machinery from treatment works or rubbish which has been thrown in
  • It may be difficult to get out – the sides of reservoirs are often very steep, making it difficult to climb out. There may also be silt or mud on the bottom created when the levels reduce
  • There may be blue green algae in the water and this can build up at the water’s edge. It may not always be visible but it can produce toxins and cause illness in those who come into contact with it.

Now that the weather is getting a bit warmer it can be tempted to take a swim outdoors  but before you do, please take a couple of minutes to consider the points above – they might just save your life.