Dangers of reservoir swimming highlighted

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With another hot week in prospect Yorkshire Water is warning people to be wary of swimming in reservoirs.

Although the water may seem calm and harmless it’s actually a potential killer.

Strong currents, the cold and the time can all cause swimmers to get into difficulties.

A company spokesperson said strong currents lurk beneath the surface, particularly if water is being taken out through massive pipes beneath the surface.

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,” said the spokesperson.

“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.”

In an emergency there is little time to act even if 999 is dialled when a swimmer disappears, 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 it is often as traumatic for the emergency services as for family or friends of the missing swimmer,” said the spokesperson.

Forecasters say the sun will continue to shine with temperatures reaching 25 degrees at the end of the week.

Yorkshire Water said it had no plans at the moment to introduce water restrictions, however it is keeping the situation under continuous review.

Reservoirs across the region are 74 per cent full, but consumers are asked to use water wisely.

Yorkshire is in a better situation than many other areas as the region doesn’t just rely on reservoir stocks.

Water is also taken from a number of sources including groundwater and rivers - unlike some other parts of the UK - and balanced carefully using a unique grid system which enables water to be moved around.