Risks of playing in and around water

Date published: 28 June 2019

Reservoirs, rivers, disused quarries and other water bodies can be perfect places to spend a day, but they can be dangerous. Water may look safe, but it can be hazardous, which is why it's important to spot and keep away from dangers.

Risks around water

Unattended waters like rivers, lakes, and reservoirs and out-of-bound areas such as quarries, treatment works or even NI Water construction sites, can seem like exciting places to explore. But they can be full of dangers.

The dangers of water include:

  • very cold temperatures - the water can be colder than expected, even in warm weather
  • hidden currents - there can be strong underwater currents, which can trouble even the most confident of swimmers
  • reservoirs are often very deep - it is difficult to estimate depth and they can be deeper than people expect
  • there may be hidden debris or underwater hazards which can cause injury, including weeds and plants which can entangle people under the water
  • it can be very difficult to get out (steep slimy banks)
  • there are no lifeguards on duty
  • the remoteness of some of these places can also hamper and delay rescue attempts


Quarries are not a playground, and quarry lakes in particular pose the greatest risk. They are often much colder than rivers, lakes and reservoirs as they can be fed by water sources that originate deep underground.

A sudden plunge into cold water starts a gasp response, which can cause drowning within seconds.

You can get more information at this link:

Tips on staying safe

Ideally people, especially children,  shouldn’t go anywhere near quarries, treatment works or construction sites. But if there is a place like this nearby, people should:

  • obey ‘danger’ signs - reservoirs and treatment works can be dangerous places, so stay well away
  • never climb on barriers and fences - they are there to protect people from serious injury and accidents around construction sites
  • stay away from trenches and open manholes - they are dirty, deep and may contain hazardous gases
  • keep clear of equipment - don’t be tempted to touch diggers, lorries, pipes and other equipment

You can find out more about water safety on the keeping safe on waterways and at the coast page.

A swim or a dip in a reservoir, quarry or lake may seem like a great idea, particularly on a very warm day, but it could all end in tragedy.  Don’t take the risk.

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