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Catchment Management

Yorkshire Water issues warning after reports of swimmers in reservoirs

Yorkshire Water has issued a stark warning to those who might be tempted by swimming in its reservoirs during the hot weather.

With temperatures touching 30C, the reservoirs might seem tempting, but taking a swim could lead to tragedy.

Reservoirs have temperatures as low as 12ºC, which is colder than rivers in summer time and they are much deeper with depths of depths of up to 50m. Although they have less currents than rivers, there are underwater currents generated by pipework, which is a more invisible danger.

People have been swimming in Ingbirchworth, Longwood Comp, Brownhill, Ramsden Wood, Whitley as well as Digley and although nobody has yet been harmed this summer, the story could easily have been different.

Yorkshire Water Regional Raw Water Manager, Darren Lynch, said: “Most people think reservoirs are safe places to swim, but they pose a huge risk which could lead to loss of life. They are often colder than rivers and this can result in cold water shock that can lead to hyperventilation, increased blood pressure, breathing difficulties and heart attacks plus water temperatures remain just as cold in summer as in winter.

“We have 115 scenic and beautiful reservoirs that we want walkers, cyclists, runners, picnic-goers and others to enjoy this summer. We just don’t want anyone to swim in them and to obey our warning signs.”

West Yorkshire Fire Service, Kirklees District Commander Toby May, said: “In the last two years, firefighters have attended over 70 water rescue incidents in various types of waterways across West Yorkshire.

“We realise the appeal of taking a dip during the hot summer months, but the cool water of a reservoir can be dangerously deceiving and you can very easily get into difficulty as cold water shock takes hold. 

“Please take care around open water - particularly as school summer holidays start, it is vital that young people take our safety messages on board when they are out and about.”

Yorkshire Water is also reminding the public that it is illegal to have barbeques on moorland.

In the past, barbeques, particularly disposable ones, have been left on the ground not properly extinguished, sparking wildfires.

Last month, in Harrogate, fire crews battled with a blaze on 100 square metres of grassland near Beckwithshaw, which required six fire engines on the scene. The cause of the fire was unknown.

Lisa Harrowsmith, Yorkshire Water’s Land and Property Lead Surveyor and Secretary of the North Yorkshire Wildfire Group, said: “Our aim is to reduce the incidents of wildfire, ensure best practice on current managed moors by gamekeepers, and minimise the impacts of wildfires when they do occur, particularly moorland and forest fires.”

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