Residents urged not to cool off in open water


Thursday, 14 July, 2022

As temperatures continue to soar, Woking Borough Council’s Community Safety Team is urging people not to cool off, swim or dive in open water such as canals, rivers and lakes, including the Goldsworth Park Lake.
Around 58%* of accidental drownings occur at inland open water sites. Many of these are due to a lack of knowledge and understanding of open water safety.
Open water areas may look calm, cool and inviting during periods of high temperatures. However, under the surface there may be hidden dangers such as weeds, rocks, rubbish, branches, uneven levels and banks, or currents that could cause difficulties to a swimmer. 
Despite the ongoing hot weather, open water can be very cold and the shock to the body can be extremely dangerous. Cold water shock is a physical response by the body when entering cold water and it can affect breathing, reduce muscle ability and even lead to a heart attack.
Other risks are harmful bacteria, such as E.coli and Leptospira (causing Leptospirosis or Weil’s disease), and blue-green algae which thrives during the summer months. Exposure to these hazards can cause serious health problems, such as skin rashes, nausea, vomiting, stomach pains, fever and headaches. In occasional circumstances, the algae can cause more serious illness such as liver and brain damage, and it is also toxic to animals, especially dogs.
Urging people to stay safe during the current hot spell, Cllr Ellen Nicholson, Portfolio Holder for Community Safety, said: “The recent extreme temperatures are encouraging more people to take risks when looking for ways to cool off. Open water areas, such as Goldsworth Park Lake, may look tempting but they can host silent and deadly dangers. 
“In Woking Borough we are fortunate to offer two public indoor swimming pools, located at Pool in the Park and the Eastwood Leisure Centre, which are easy to access. If you’re looking for outdoor swimming options, there are also a number of managed open water facilities in neighbouring boroughs where swimming is permitted and supervised. Please stay safe and choose locations where qualified lifeguards are on duty.”

Read more water safety advice and what to do in the event of an emergency on the Surrey Fire and Rescue website

(*Source: 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. Published 19/05/2021.)