The latest figures show that, in 2014, a total of 338 people lost their lives to drowning in the UK. Among them was 14-year-old Bockarie Sonnah, from Musselburgh, who died after a swimming accident at Torduff Reservoir in Bonaly Country Park in July last year. In a bid to avoid a similar tragedy, Scottish Water has urged parents to make sure their children were aware of the risks.
As well as posting safety messages on social media sites with the hashtag #ReservoirSafety, the company has produced a safety video which will be available on YouTube.
Peter Farrer, Scottish Water’s chief operating officer, said: “While everyone should enjoy their school holidays or take pleasure in the country’s beautiful lochs, rivers and reservoirs, it’s absolutely vital that they stay safe at all times.
“Safety is a serious issue as while the water may look harmless there are many hidden dangers. We need to ensure children, and parents, are aware of these hazards. We are reminding parents to keep their children safe and asking adults to act responsibly.”
Bockarie Sonnah had been a player for youth team Redhall Star and the club said he had been “a huge presence with a huge smile” and “ a huge prospect in the game”.
Torduff Reservoir where he drowned is owned by Scottish Water and there have long been signs up to warn people against swimming.
Reservoirs and rivers are seen as a particular risk to swimmers, due to factors such as dams, steep banks, spillways [overflows], deep cold water and underwater pipe work, which can trap or injure swimmers.
The majority of Scottish Water’s reservoirs are situated in remote locations, far from help and often with no mobile phone signal.
Elizabeth Lumsden, community safety manager at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents Scotland, said: “It is important to be vigilant around inland waters.
“That’s particularly true during periods of hot weather and school holidays. The water can be a lot colder than expected, which can lead to cold shock; in the worst case, water will be inhaled and the drowning process begins. There may also be strong currents and underwater debris that you cannot see from the bank.”
Scottish Water is one of ten partners involved in the Go Safe Scotland online education resource www.gosafescotland.com that has been developed to provide young people with a variety of key safety messages, one of which is water safety. George Cairns, the chair of Go Safe Scotland, said: “We welcome Scottish Water’s initiative to raise awareness of water safety, particularly in the run-up to the summer holiday period.”