News article created on 4 June 2021

Stay safe by water this summer

As temperatures soar across the country, we're reinforcing the importance of staying safe by the water this summer by discouraging open water swimming in local canals, rivers and reservoirs.

Walking by the canal Walking by the canal

With summer approaching, we are working with West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service to help reinforce the importance of staying safe by water and discouraging open water swimming in local canals, rivers and reservoirs.

Our urgency to encourage safety by water follows the tragic death of a young boy in the River Calder.

Our spokesperson has said: “This a tragic accident and our thoughts are very much with the family and with everyone affected by this very sad loss.

“On a hot day we understand that people might feel like cooling off in a river, canal or reservoir but we strongly advise people to stay out of the water. There are lots of hidden risks that you can’t see - submerged obstacles that can cause injury or you can get tangled in, unknown depth and current, and often the water is a lot colder than you think which can lead to shock.”

Keeping safe this summer

With 316 miles of waterways and five reservoirs across the region, this year’s summer water safety message is supported by West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service. Andy Rose, group manager, said: “Unfortunately, during periods of warm weather we tend to see these figures rise with people entering canals and rivers to cool down and swim.

“As appealing as this may seem, there are many hidden dangers that have tragically taken lives and I would urge members of the public to think twice before entering due the potential unseen hazards and risks.

“We are committed to protecting the people of West Yorkshire, and are working with other authorities to implement measures now and in the future to continue to keep people safe.”

Open water risks

West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service has highlighted the following risks of open water swimming:

  • cold water shock
  • submerged obstacles such as tree branches, rubbish, or even vehicles that may not be visible due to the depth or clarity of the water
  • undercurrents, even though it may appear to be still, static water on the surface, there could potentially be undercurrents that have the ability to pin individuals to the bottom of the riverbed
  • weirs are to be avoided at all costs. The biggest danger is at the bottom in the form of a ‘stopper.’ Here the recirculating current pulls you back towards the falls and pushes you under the water. In some cases, these are impossible to escape
  • contamination from unclean/unsafe water leading to illnesses or diseases

Promoting water safety

We are once again delivering our ‘Explorers’ water safety summer education programme to help thousands of schoolchildren learn how to enjoy their local canal or river safely. We are also continuing to work in partnership with emergency services across the Yorkshire & North East region to help keep the community safe through signage and safety measures in hot spot areas.

Over the past four years, 125,000 children have benefited from our water safety 'Explorers' programme, which focuses on children in Key Stage two of the National Curriculum.

To help with water safety education at home the 'Explorers' team has compiled a range of free activities, resources and games which can be found our water safety page.