National Water Safety Forum


Public urged to “Respect the Water” as new statistics show drowning deaths increased last year, with more dying inland than around the coast.


Following a concerning increase in water-related deaths last year, over 50 organisations are, for the first time, issuing coordinated water safety advice for those visiting and enjoying waterways and coastlines as part of the #RespectTheWater campaign. This joint campaign, run by the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF), aims to reduce the number of water-related deaths and accidents.


The collaborating members of the NWSF, come from a wide range of sectors including sports governing bodies, rescue services, charities, regulators, navigation and harbour authorities, local government, utilities and those representing quarry operators.


In a call to action, members of the NWSF are asking everyone to support and promote the national #RespectTheWater campaign, to reduce drowning this summer.


The national campaign aims to provide simple lifesaving advice, which can help members of the public take personal responsibility for their own and family’s safety by remembering these lifesaving tips:


  • If you get into trouble 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.


The aim of this landmark coordinated approach is to significantly increase public awareness of key water safety risks as summer approaches and lockdown lifts.


The campaign comes with the latest figures from the Water Incident Database (WAID), which is maintained by the NWSF. It shows that there were 254 deaths in UK waters from accidental drownings in 2020 across inland and coastal locations, this is an increase of 34 from the previous year. These accidental drownings form part of the total water-related fatalities in the UK which stands at 631 for 2020, an increase of 10 on the previous year.


Key accidental drowning death WAID insights include:

  • Inland open waters, such as rivers, canals,lakes, reservoirs and quarries continue to be the leading locations with 58% of deaths (N=139).
  • Males continue to over represent with 78% of deaths (N=199).
  • Almost half of (43%) people had no intention to enter the water, such as those walking, with causes including slips, trips and falls, being cut off by the tide, or swept in by waves (N= 107).


Dawn Whittaker, CEO East Sussex Fire Rescue Service & NWSF Chair-Designate said:

“Last summer presented considerable challenges at our coastal and inland waterways. This has meant that members of the National Water Safety Forum have decided to come together around the #RespectTheWater campaign to help prevent further deaths. We urge the public to understand the dangers, to learn the importance of knowing how to float to live, and to call 999 if others are in trouble and if there is a water related emergency.

We will continue to work together to reduce deaths caused by drowning and water related injuries in the UK, and endeavour to reach our collective goal of halving accidental drownings in the UK by 2026. This comes at a time when the global community have committed to a UN resolution that recognises for the first time the scale and burden of drowning and calls for urgent international action.”


To view and download the WAID 2020 report visit:

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