Friday, 27 June 2014

Scottish Water call to 'stay safe' this summer

Scottish Water is reminding Three Towns residents to play it safe in or near rivers and reservoirs this summer.

As the school holidays begin, the water company is asking locals not to take risks and is calling on parents to make sure children take care near water during any spells of warm weather we might enjoy.

The timely warning comes as the first anniversary approaches of the tragic deaths of Saltcoats man Sean Marshall (20) and 17-year-old Ross Munn from Ardrossan who drowned after getting into difficulties while swimming at the Mill Dam reservoir (pictured above) north of Ardrossan last August.

Following the untimely deaths of the two friends, locals raised a petition calling on Scottish Water to fence-off the reservoir, which is no longer used as part of the public water-supply system. However, at the time, a representative of Scottish Water told the3towns that legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament actually prevents the company from erecting fencing around the reservoir or from even putting-up ‘No Swimming’ signs.

The legal prohibition is an unintended consequence of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, which was introduced to stop private landowners from preventing public access to large swathes of the Scottish countryside and hills. The legislation provides public access rights to all land and inland waterways, with a few stated exceptions, which means that Scottish Water would be breaking the law if it erected fences that prevented the public from accessing the area around the Mill Dam.

Latest figures from the National Water Safety Forum show that in the last full year for which figures are available, 371 people drowned accidentally across the UK, of which 43 were children or young people up to the age of 19. Of the 371 drownings, the majority - 203 - took place in inland waters, including rivers, canals, lochs, streams, ponds and reservoirs.

Jane McKenzie, Scottish Water’s Regional Communities Team Manager for the local area, said, “While it’s important that youngsters enjoy their school holidays and that people across Scotland take pleasure in the country’s beautiful lochs, rivers and reservoirs, it’s also vital that they stay safe.

“We are reminding parents to keep their children safe and asking adults to act responsibly around watercourses.”

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents is backing Scottish Water’s call. Carlene McAvoy, the organisation’s Community Safety Development Officer for Scotland, said, “During periods of hot weather and school holidays, there is often a rise in the number of accidental drownings, which is why it is important to be extra vigilant around inland waters.

“The water can be a lot colder than expected, which can lead to a swimmer going into cold shock: in the worst case, a swimmer will inhale water and the drowning process begins. There may also be strong currents and underwater debris that you cannot see from the bank, so don’t go alone, and consider how you are going to get out of the water before you get in - be honest about your swimming ability.

"The safest option is to go swimming at properly-supervised sites, such as beaches or swimming pools.”

Scottish Water points out that reservoirs are man-made features which, because of their purpose, have unique dangers such as dams, overflows and hidden underwater pipes that take water out of the reservoir. Other dangers include reeds, strong currents, steep banks and deep, cold water.

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