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Authorities issue firm warning over open water swimming

Swineshaw Reservoir.

People are being warned they're putting lives at risk by swimming in the Peak District's reservoirs.

United Utilities has noticed there’s a growing number of open water swimmers and triathletes who are putting their lives in danger by swimming in the region’s reservoirs.

Mark Seymour, United Utilities’ catchment manager for Manchester, said: “Open water swimmers have been noticed at a few of our reservoirs recently, including Swineshaw in Glossop and Errwood in the Goyt Valley.

“They turn up in wetsuits, they’re usually adults, and ignore the fact that swimming is prohibited.

“Not only should they know better than to ignore the warning signs, but they’re also setting a dangerous example because other younger people might see them swimming and get the wrong impression that it’s ok to swim too.

“These open water swimmers could indirectly be the cause of another drowning tragedy. It’s extremely irresponsible.”

Figures show around 44 per cent of accidental drownings happen between May and August and more than 80 per cent of victims are male. 

School closures during the Covid-19 lockdowns in 2020 and 2021 also mean that millions of young people have missed out on vital water safety education.

Matthew Upton, United Utilities’ catchment manager for Lancashire, has witnessed three reservoir drownings. 

He said: “It’s devastating to witness, many of my team have never recovered from the experience. Of course, for the families involved the loss and grief they feel is unimaginable.

“What makes it even more tragic is that it is such a waste of a life, often a young life, and something that should have been prevented.

“Swimming is prohibited at all of our reservoirs.

“Regardless of how warm the weather is, our advice is crystal clear. A quick cool off in one of reservoirs could be fatal. Cold water shock can kill even strong swimmers in just 60 seconds. Don’t risk it.”

United Utilities has clear signage at all of its reservoirs explaining the dangers and has installed throwlines at 20 locations around eight reservoirs across Greater Manchester and Lancashire, each dedicated to the memory of someone who lost their life.

The company runs a hard-hitting reservoir safety campaign every year. Previous campaigns have included a ‘horror-style’ film and a moving play inspired by the tragic deaths of two North West teenagers, to educate schoolchildren and young people about the dangers of swimming in reservoirs.

“Reservoirs are often isolated places which means if someone gets into difficulty, there’s very few people around to help,” says Matt.

“Reservoirs are very deep with sudden drops and steep sides, making it difficult to get out.

“There are often strong currents caused by machinery under the water and reservoirs are very cold.

“Cold water shock can take your breath away and lead to panic and death.

“Reservoirs are completely unsuitable for swimming of any kind,” he added.

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