Visitor safety

At Yorkshire Water, we want everyone to enjoy our land and reservoirs but we need people to act safely and responsibly. 

Little boy on dads shoulders

No swimming in our reservoirs

We want everyone to stay safe when they visit our land. Recently, we're seeing more people swimming in our reservoirs and as a responsible landowner, we need to take action. 

We want to make it very clear we do not allow swimming in our reservoirs. We have signs at all our reservoirs that explain this.

Swimming in our reservoirs is not safe because:

  • the water in our reservoirs is a very low temperature year-round and cold water shock can kill
  • our reservoirs are operational and supply water to be treated. There's machinery and strong currents in the reservoir
  • blue-green algae can cause rashes if it touches your skin and severe illnesses if you swallow it.

As swimming in reservoirs is not safe, our byelaws forbid it if you do not have our permission. We do not consent to swimming in our reservoirs. If anyone breaks these byelaws, you are committing an offence and you may be prosecuted. Yorkshire Water may also take further legal action to put a stop to swimming in our reservoirs.

Our colleagues know our policy around swimming in reservoirs and we encourage them to challenge anybody they see swimming in our reservoirs.

Anybody who ignores our ban on reservoir swimming does so at their own risk and they also risk enforcement action.

Blue-green Algae

Blue-green algal blooms and scums sometimes occur naturally on reservoirs and other inland waters. The toxins which may be produced by algae are poisonous to animals and can cause severe illness and death. Farmers and pet owners should ensure that their animals do not have access to affected water. In humans, they can cause rashes after skin contact and severe illnesses if swallowed.

Not all algal blooms are harmful but it’s best to avoid any contact with algae or the water close to it.

During a bloom the water may look green, blue-green or greenish-brown, there may be a musty, earthy or grassy odour and the water may become less clear. Scums can also form on the surface of the water, which may be blue-green, grey-green or greenish-brown and there may also be foaming along the shoreline.

Where blue-green algae is present, or there are warning signs in place, visitors are urged to take the following precautions:

  • Do not swim in the water
  • Do not swallow the water
  • Do not let dogs swim in the water
  • Do not let dogs drink the water
  • Avoid contact with the algae
  • Do not eat fish caught from the water
  • Observe and abide by any warning notices positioned around the water

Anyone who has come into contact with water containing blue-green algae should shower with fresh water immediately. Anyone who has come into contact with affected water and has become ill should obtain medical attention.

The standard of your treated drinking water is not affected by blue-green algae.

Frozen reservoirs

In the winter time, reservoirs can often freeze up and a thin sheet of ice can cover parts or even the whole of the reservoir. Whilst they may seem safe to walk on, the ice is extremely thin and the water beneath is likely to be very deep and extremely cold.

But it's not only the cold you need to be worried about! Strong undercurrents caused by the fact that water is being continually drawn into large submerged pipes can make it almost impossible to escape.

If you do decide to take a stroll around our reservoirs, please follow our advice to make sure you stay safe:

  • Don't be tempted to test the thickness of the ice; it's easy to slip from the bank and fall through.
  • Parents should explain the dangers of playing on frozen reservoirs and lakes to their children.
  • Adults should set a good example by staying off the ice themselves.
  • Dog owners should ensure they keep their pets on a lead.
  • Reservoirs are dangerous. If you fall in your life is in danger.
  • Make sure you wear appropriate clothing and footwear.

What are the dangers of reservoir water?

There are three main dangers - strong currents, the cold and time.


1. Strong Currents

These lurk beneath the surface, particularly if water is being taken out through massive pipes beneath the surface.


2. The cold and hyperventilation

When fatalities occur, it's the temperature of the water which is often the most significant factor. Reservoirs are deep and the water in them doesn't flow like in rivers or the sea so the temperature rarely rises much above 12 C.

Immersion is enough to take most people's breath away but what they probably don't realise is that this sensation is their body's natural defences kicking in - and they will only protect a swimmer for a matter of minutes, no matter how confident they are in the water.

One of the first signs of trouble is hyperventilation as the body tries to increase the flow of oxygen into the blood to help stave off the cold but, if the swimmer remains in the water, the body will begin to shut down to protect the vital organs. Muscles will go into cramp and suddenly it's no longer possible to swim. The victim will try to fight to stay on the surface but, if help doesn't arrive within seconds, they will be drawn unavoidably underwater, even though they may still be fully conscious and aware of what's happening.


3. Time

Even if friends or relatives dial 999 within minutes of a swimmer disappearing, the reality is that the emergency services are more likely to be dealing with the recovery of a body rather than a rescue.
Firefighters, police and paramedics may be able to reach the scene within minutes, but if the victim is still somewhere in the water, they'll not be able to begin a search until specialist equipment arrives. Instead, they can only watch and wait, which may be hard for onlookers to understand but is often as traumatic for the emergency services as for family or friends of the missing swimmer.

It can take days to recover a body from a reservoir. In the meantime, friends and loved ones can do nothing more than return home and begin a tortuous wait for news.

Reservoir Byelaws

To help keep our reservoirs safe and enjoyable places to visit, as well as protecting your water supplies, we asked the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to confirm Byelaws that we originally advertised in April 2009.

The Countryside Code

Yorkshire Water provides car parks, toilets, walking trails, bike trails and horse trails all for free. Please respect our land when visiting and follow the Countryside Code.


Keep dogs under control and be aware of farm animals.

The following is taken from The Countryside Code:

When you take your dog into the outdoors, always ensure it does not disturb wildlife, farm animals, horses or other people by keeping it under effective control. This means that you:

Keep your dog on a lead, or

Keep it in sight at all times, be aware of what it’s doing and be confident it will return to you promptly on command

Ensure it does not stray off the path or area where you have a right of access.

It’s always good practice (and a legal requirement on ‘Open Access’ land) to keep your dog on a lead around farm animals and horses, for your own safety and for the welfare of the animals. A farmer may shoot a dog which is attacking or chasing farm animals without being liable to compensate the dog’s owner.

However, if cattle or horses chase you and your dog, it is safer to let your dog off the lead – don’t risk getting hurt by trying to protect it. Your dog will be much safer if you let it run away from a farm animal in these circumstances and so will you.

The access rights that normally apply to open country and registered common land (known as ‘Open Access’ land) require dogs to be kept on a short lead between 1 March and 31 July, to help protect ground nesting birds, and all year round near farm animals.

Everyone knows how unpleasant dog mess is and it can cause infections, so always clean up after your dog and get rid of the mess responsibly –‘bag it and bin it’. Make sure your dog is wormed regularly to protect it, other animals and people. Not cleaning up after your dog is a criminal offence.

You can be fined if your dog is out of control.


Keep Britain Tidy

Litter and leftover food doesn’t just spoil the beauty of the countryside, it can be dangerous to wildlife and farm animals – so take your litter home with you. Dropping litter and dumping rubbish are criminal offences. Please read The Countryside Code for further information.

Car Park Height Barriers

With many of our beautiful leisure and recreation sites being situated in quite remote locations we appreciate that for many people, travelling to them in a motor vehicle is an absolute necessity. We therefore, where possible, look to offer suitable parking facilities that cater for different modes of transportation.

Please download a copy of our on-site parking pdf to see which sites have parking facilities including details of any restrictions imposed on the type of vehicles permitted to use them.

Please note, some of our car parks have height barriers of various heights at the entrances. Click the link on the right to find out more.

It is your responsibility to ensure that the car park you are entering is suitable for your vehicle and that by using the facility you do not block other vehicles and ensure adequate turning space. We don't accept any liability for vehicles damaged whilst using our parking facilities.

Can you swim in a reservoir?

No, you can't swim in our reservoirs. Reservoirs are really dangerous places and have lots of dangers hidden under the surface. We don't allow anyone to swim in our reservoirs, even if you’re a great swimmer!

Is reservoir swimming dangerous?

Yes, reservoir swimming is dangerous. Reservoirs aren't the same as natural lakes, they’re man-made and have large machinery working 24/7 just below the surface. They’re also very cold, have strong currents and might have blue-green algae which causes rashes and severe illnesses.

Why can’t you swim in reservoirs?

Our reservoirs have lots of hidden dangers. The water is very cold (even in summer) and cold water shock can kill. Our reservoirs supply water to be treated, so there's machinery and strong currents under the surface. Some reservoirs have blue-green algae, which causes rashes and severe illnesses.

Is it illegal to swim in reservoirs?

Swimming in reservoirs is not safe and our byelaws forbid it if you do not have our permission. We do not consent to swimming in our reservoirs. If anyone breaks these byelaws, you are committing an offence and you may be prosecuted. 

Is it safe to swim in a reservoir?

No, reservoirs are really dangerous places. The water is very cold (even in summer) and cold water shock can kill. Our reservoirs supply water to be treated, so there's machinery and strong currents under the surface. Some reservoirs have blue-green algae, which causes rashes and severe illness.

Can dogs swim in reservoirs?

No, it’s not safe for dogs to swim in our reservoirs and they shouldn’t drink the water. Blue-green algae can form on the water which is poisonous and can kill them. There’s also dangerous machinery and strong currents under the water.

Is wild swimming allowed in reservoirs?

No, reservoir swimming is dangerous. Reservoirs aren't the same as natural lakes, they’re man-made and have large machinery that’s working 24/7 just below the surface. They’re also very cold, have strong currents and might have blue-green algae which causes rashes and severe illness.