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Learning from 2020: Respect The Water

   Learning from 2020: Respect The Water

The National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) has urged the public to follow its #RespectTheWater campaign to help keep people safe in and around the UK’s waterways. This ask comes as the 2020 drowning fatality data has been released by the NWSF’s Water Incident Database (WAID).

The 2020 WAID data shows that 254 people accidentally drowned in the United Kingdom in 2020. Although this is a slight increase of 30 (since 2019), in comparison to a three year baseline (2013 – 2015) it is is a clear decrease of approximately 29 per cent (Baseline: 356) since the release of the UK’s Drowning Prevention Strategy.  The key aim of this strategy was to reduce accidental drowning fatalities in the UK by 50% by 2026 and reduce risk amongst the highest risk populations, groups and communities. The 2020 data  is therefore cautiously showing positive direction towards this aim.

The 2020 data has been broken down into location, gender and age. Like previous years, the majority accidental drownings in the UK were male (78 per cent n=199). Those aged 20 – 29 had the highest number of accidental drowning fatalities.

58 per cent (n=139) of accidental drownings were at inland waters in locations like rivers, quarries, lochs and lakes. This is consistent with previous years although coastal location fatalities saw a small increase from the previous year (2020 coastal = 43 per cent, 2019 coastal = 39 per cent).

Almost half of accidental fatalities (43 per cent) had no intention of entering the water. These fatalities were the result of those walking or cycling near water including slips, trips and falls, being cut off by the tide or being swept in by the waves.

As you can see in the graph below, across the UK when looking at the drowning rate per 100,000 people, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland carry a clear disproportion in the number of accidental fatalities.


To help reduce accidental drowning fatalities across the UK, the National Water Safety Forum have come together to ask people to #RespectTheWater.
There are two key asks to help keep safe on and around water:
  • If you get into trouble in the in the water, Float to Live. Lean back and use your arms and legs to help you float, then get control of your breathing before calling for help or swimming to safety.
  • If you see someone else in trouble in the water, call 999 or 112. If you are the coast ask for the coastguard, if you are inland, ask for the fire service.
For more information, visit and
Carlene McAvoy, Leisure Safety Manager
Posted: 6/2/2021 11:58:46 AM 0 comments


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