Open Water

18th January 2019

The Hot Topic – Open Water, an Open Problem for the Water Industry

We have some bad news for you if you are aged between 25 and 29, Male and plan on going for a run or walk alongside open water on any Saturday in May… You are three times more likely to die from falling in and drowning than by swimming in it according to the WAter Incident Database (WAID).

With ‘The Hot Topic’ we look at the problems facing a particular industry each month. This month the question we are asking is…

Do we allow the public the freedom to put themselves at risk in and around open water OR has the time come to start to look at this killer and realise that when warnings don’t work, action must be taken to keep people safe?

Open Water

In 2017-18 over 100 people died this way, compared to 35 from swimming in an open water environment; but the danger doesn’t stop there. From toxic quarries that are just below bleach in their PH Levels to numerous deaths from drowning, the nature of the problem creates even more issues when you try to solve it.

We have a solution… Lets just fence all the Open Water in the UK!

I mean it would be great for us Fencing Manufacturers, think of all the miles and miles of waterways across the UK alone. Well never mind the UK; Birmingham on its own has more canals than Venice; 35miles versus Venice’s meagre 26. Our sales department have already started counting the £’s but let’s face it, that isn’t a practical solution.

Safety is paramount, but how do you stop the public and their ability to pick the wrong decision when it comes to Open Water.

Open Water

Let’s look at some real-world open water problems. The ‘Blue Lagoon’ at Harpur Hill in Buxton was a popular location for young people and families. With a ‘beach’ and bright blue water it looked like the Caribbean; but in the Peak District. The problem was; this idyllic open water paradise held a dangerous secret.

The blue water and beach were a result of the limestone from the quarry. It was in such abundance that in water PH level tests it registered slightly below bleach at 11.3.

However, on any given weekend you could see babies in rubber rings and young people swimming; the problem became so bad that the police had to set up a mobile station in the area one Easter weekend. Dogs fell ill, people reported burns and skin conditions and all the time signs stood around stating no swimming

Open Water

Gullet Quarry is another open water problem that has seen the loss of eight lives since 1973, with a rudimental barb wire fence and signs that declare no swimming and warnings of prosecution it still remains a destination for cooling off in the summer heat. The situation reached its height in 2013 when two young men died within a week of each other at the site.

Could these deaths have been preventable with security fencing?

Just look at the Water Industry to see how they deal with the issue. Water Treatment Works employ sophisticated layered security that starts with Security Fencing and Physical Access control. There are two reasons behind this, the first being the protection of the plant via removing the ability to trespass and secondly the preservation of lives in stopping contamination of the water and preventing accidental drowning.

However, at the same time the public want to prevent the removal of access to open spaces. Many people see open water as a place to practice sports, have fun with their friends or take a walk to get away from the daily grind of the week. The dangers of open water are often the last thing on their minds. Signage has failed to work, advice from the Fire Services, Police and Water Rescue units advice goes unheeded. Cheap fencing systems are instantly scaled or cut through to enable access to the sites so people can continue to enjoy the ‘freedom’ of open water.

So what do you think… Fence it all off or accept the risk?