Oxford City Council marks Drowning Prevention Week by highlighting the dangers of wild water

Published: Friday, 18th June 2021

The sun’s up, the water’s sparkling, but don’t just dive in. This week is Drowning Prevention Week and Oxford City Council is urging residents to know their Wild Water Code before they jump in.

Drowning Prevention Week (19-26 June) is a national campaign, organised by the Royal Life Saving Society UK, which aims to ensure that everyone in the UK has the skills and knowledge to stay safe around water.

Oxford is surrounded by waterways, but many have an industrial past that leaves hidden dangers and well as natural dangers. Hidden debris can cause injuries, pollutants and run-offs can make you sick, and cold water can put even strong swimmers at risk. The City Council is emphasising the importance of staying safe around open water.

Wild water includes natural bodies of water such as rivers and lakes. Swimming in wild water is very different to swimming in a pool and can become dangerous very quickly.

The dangers of swimming in wild water include:

  • Cold temperatures. The temperature in a lake or river can be much colder than you expect, even in summer. Extremely cold water can cause shock.
  • Strong currents. A strong undertow can be dangerous.
  • Hidden dangers. When you jump into a river or lake, you can’t always see what’s underneath. People regularly throw objects into watercourses in urban locations, such as bicycles, trolleys or even broken glass.
  • Water quality. As Oxford is an urban environment, the quality of water in the area can vary. Water that is contaminated, such as with pesticides from farmland, can pose a risk to your health.
  • Shallow water. Moving water can be deceptively shallow and jumping in from a great height could potentially cause serious injury.
  • Don’t drink and drown – drink or drugs are a lethal cocktail when swimming.  They can limit your ability to swim, lower your inhibitions and increase the chance of taking dangerous risks.

The safest location to swim is at a leisure centre or swimming pool. The council’s pools are now open again after lockdown including Hinksey Outdoor Pool.

Designated bathing places

Oxford does not currently have any designated bathing places. However, the City Council is committed to working with partners to improve water quality in Oxford, which it hopes will lead to a safe bathing site. Until then, water quality remains a risk to swimmers.

The Council are part of the Thames 21 project to improve water quality in Oxford for swimmers and other river users. This project is a partnership between Oxford City Council, End Sewage Pollution mid-Thames Group, Thames Water, The Rivers Trust and is hosted by Thames21

To find out more information and view our Wild Water Code visit the Oxford City Council website.

“On a hot day it’s so tempting to jump in the river to cool off. But jumping straight in can have frightening, and sometimes tragic, consequences. Even strong swimmers can get into difficulties if the water’s too cold or there’s hidden debris. We have safe, local swimming pools across the city, including Hinksey Outdoor Pool. If you do decide to take a risk on our rivers and lakes, please know your wild water code and think before you take a dip." 

Councillor Mary Clarkson, Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Tourism.