Teenagers urged to stay out of canals and rivers as the hot weather continues
Glandŵr Cymru, the Canal & River Trust in Wales, and Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water are urging teenagers and the general public to stay out of canals, rivers, reservoirs and docks during half term and after exams finish.
The summer months are the most popular times for people to visit canals and rivers and the Trust is expecting many of its waterways to be particularly popular.
However, 60% of the accidental water-related deaths in 2022 in the UK happened at inland waters such as canals, rivers, lakes, quarries and reservoirs and 83% of accidental deaths were male.
Last year (2022), there were 48 water-related fatalities across Wales. 22 of these were accidental drownings across inland and coastal locations with 4 of those under the age of 20.
The trust says there are hidden dangers under the surface of the water:
- Docks, reservoirs, canals and rivers will be really cold, even in the summer. The sudden exposure to cold water can cause several involuntary bodily reactions – this is cold water shock. One reaction is to gasp, meaning you’ll suck in water, which could cause you to drown.
- Canals can be shallow and you could seriously hurt yourself if you jump from a bridge, while locks are a lot deeper than expected.
- Reeds and plant life can tangle around limbs making it harder to move and exit the water.
- Unfortunately, there can be items such as shopping trolleys in the water which could cause serious injury if landed upon.
The dangers of swimming in reservoirs include:
- Hidden equipment beneath the surface of the water which can operate without warning.
- Deep, freezing water that can cause even strong swimmers to find themselves in difficulty.
- Reduced chance of rescue due to the remote location of many reservoirs, with little or no mobile reception.
- If you get into trouble in the water, Float to Live.
- Lean back and use your arms and legs to help you float, then get control of your breathing before calling for help or swimming to safety.
If you see someone else in trouble in the water this summer, remember Call, Tell, Throw:
- Call 999 – ask for Fire & Rescue if inland or the Coastguard if by the sea.
- Tell the struggling person to try to float on their back.
- Throw them something that floats.
Anne Gardner-Aston, director of health & safety at the Canal & River Trust explains: “Canals and rivers are lovely relaxing places to spend time during the warm weather, but it’s important that children and teenagers are aware of the dangers of cooling off by going for a dip with friends.
“The consequences can be devastating, and every year lives are lost and families devastated because young people die whilst swimming and jumping into open water.
“Inland waters, like canals, rivers, reservoirs and docks can look really inviting, but you can’t tell what is below the surface.
“The water often isn’t clear, you won’t be able to see the depth or any obstacles in the water, and even on a hot day the water can be extremely cold – these dangers may affect you even if you consider yourself a strong swimmer.
“Jumping into rivers or canals from bridges is extremely risky and can cause nasty, and sometimes fatal, injuries. If you want to swim, go to a pool or find an open water swimming club near you by visiting our website.
“You may be glad to have finished your exams but please don’t celebrate by swimming and jumping into canals, reservoirs and rivers.
“It’s not worth the risk. If you see a friend in difficulty, follow the advice of #RespectTheWater.”
For tips on how to talk to teenagers and young people about water safety and staying safe near canals and rivers, go to the Canal & River Trust website
For younger children, the Canal & River Trust ‘Explorers’ water safety programme, which focuses on children in Key Stage 2 of the National Curriculum, aims to help children learn about and enjoy their local canal or river safely.
It can also be used towards a number of Cub Scout and Brownie badges.
Dozens of volunteers help the Trust each year by visiting schools and speaking to youth groups about their local canal or river.
If you’d like to see the free resources available or if you’re interested in helping the Trust educate young people about their local canal or river, follow this link.
Also visit dwrcymru.com/reservoirsafety for more information.
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