National Water Safety Forum


Press Release



As weather warms up, public urged to Respect the Water

June saw the most accidental water related fatalities last year alongside October, with 28 lives tragically lost during both months. This unusual pattern is causing experts concern as drownings usually peak in July & August, so people are being urged to Respect the Water this June to prevent last year’s rise becoming a longer-term trend.

As summer weather arrives across the UK, more people will be spending time enjoying the water, and although air temperatures are rising, water temperatures remain dangerously cold, with many people unaware of associated risks like Cold Water Shock. The National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) is reminding people to take responsibility for their own safety near water by learning about risks and knowing how to help themselves and other people in the event of a water-related emergency.

Sadly 236 people accidentally died in water related fatalities in 2023, in line with the five-year average of 243, but ten more than 2022. The are also 211 further cases where the cause is still unknown, so the number of accidental fatalities is likely to increase as additional information becomes available from coroners.

The 2023 Water Incident Database (WAID), which is maintained by the NWSF, show us that:

Inland waterways, continue to be the leading locations for accidental drowning, accounting for 63% of deaths in locations including rivers, canals, lakes, reservoirs, and quarries.

Males continue to over represent with 83% of accidental fatalities.

Of the 236 accidental fatalities in the UK in 2023; 28 occurred in June, with 20 in July and 21 in August

Everyday activities like walking and running accounted for 48% of accidental fatalities.

Many of those who lost their lives were not intending to enter the water, 88 of the fatalities (37%) were walking or running before the accident.

Of those 236, 157 were in England; 47 in Scotland; 28 in Wales; 4 in Northern Ireland


#RespecttheWater is the partnership campaign run by the NWSF and provides simple life saving advice, to help people take personal responsibility for their own safety near water, with a focus this year on knowing how to help other people in trouble.

If you see someone else in trouble in the water this summer, remember Call, Tell, Throw:


Call 999 to get help

Tell the struggling person to float on their back.

Throw them something that floats, such as a life ring, inflatable toy, or bottle


The Forum will be promoting the #RespectTheWater campaign throughout the summer including on World Drowning Prevention Day on 25th July.

Dawn Whittaker, NWSF Chair and National Fire Chiefs Council Lead for Drowning Prevention and Water Safety said:

These new figures give us a poignant reminder about the importance of raising awareness of water safety and drowning prevention. We will continue to urge the public to understand the dangers and to learn the importance of knowing what to do in an emergency: if you see someone in trouble in the water, the best way you can help is by staying calm, staying on land, and following the 3-step rescue guide – Call, Tell, Throw.

It’s hard to predict what this summer will bring, but with the increased likelihood of extreme weather events like heatwaves and flooding, we will be promoting the #RespectTheWater campaign to help people stay safe while enjoying their time in and by the water.”

“Over the last few years, the number of people participating in water sports and water-based activities has risen as has the number of incidents associated with activities such as stand-up paddleboarding and open water swimming. We want people to enjoy the water safely, so we will continue to focus on guidance, education, and awareness for the public.

“We will continue to work together to reduce deaths caused by drowning and water related injuries in the UK. The global water safety community is onboard with a UN resolution recognising the scale and burden of drowning, calling for urgent international action.”

To view and download the WAID 2023 report visit here.

For more information about the #RespectTheWater campaign visit


News Search

Newsletter sign up

Fill in your details below to sign up to our Water Safety newsletter:

Twitter feed