Official Statistics Show Concerning Increase in UK Drowning Deaths

Open Water Reservoir

The figures from the latest Water Incident Database (WAID) compiled and maintained by the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) are sadly indicating an increase in year-on-year drowning deaths. The figures contained in the 2020 Annual Fatal Incident Report show that there was a grand total of 631 drowning deaths throughout the UK. 254 of these deaths have been attributed to accidental drowning, which is an increase of 34 on the previous year.

Where is Accidental Drowning Most Likely to Take Place?

Inland waterways, rather than coastal, are the most common locations for drowning deaths to occur in the UK. These locations include rivers, canals, lakes, reservoirs and quarries. In fact, persons drowning in rivers are the leading cause of water-related deaths inland with 73, followed by lakes with 24.


A key insight revealed in the latest WAID is that almost half of accidental drowning deaths continue to be from people who had no intention of entering the water. These people are usually out for a run or walk when they slip, trip or fall into water.


In reaction to these concerning figures, members of the NWSF are issuing a coordinated water safety campaign, urging the public to #RespectTheWater. Indeed, educating the public to the dangers of water so that they know how to float to live is a key priority for the NWSF, but the campaign also highlights the importance of calling 999 if someone in the water is in trouble.

How Can Reach and Rescue Help?

Portsafe Emergency Throwline Board Installed at Shadwell Basin
Portsafe Public Access Water Rescue System with Emergency Throwline linked to 999 control

Our Portsafe Public Access Water Rescue System is our industry leading approach to drowning prevention. A key feature of all the Portsafe Public Access Water Rescue Systems we’ve installed throughout the UK is the lock code for the secure box which is linked to 999 control. In the event of an emergency, a caller to 999 quotes the location code on the board to gain access to the box with the water rescue equipment stored inside. They can then act on a rescue whilst the 999 call handler despatches the emergency services.


We’ve a substantial number installed across Greater Manchester; preliminary feedback from Greater Manchester Combined Authority indicates that the Portsafe’s location code has given them the benefit of ensuring swift and accurate location of incidents – especially in larger areas of public water such as reservoirs. When time is of the essence, this specific location data is crucial. 


Furthermore, we believe that Portsafe’s bold water safety messages featured in their design will act as deterrent, preventing members of the public from entering water by visibly alerting them to the dangers.

Portsafe is the industry-leading approach to drowning prevention
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