Danger of accidental drowningImage: Pexels

There were 277 deaths in the UK from accidental drownings in 2021 across inland and coastal locations. 

This is an increase of 23 from the previous year. 

Accidental drownings form part of the total water-related fatalities in the UK – for 2021 the total number of deaths in water was 616, a decrease of 15 from the previous year.

The statistics and figures in the report are from the Water Incident Database (WAID), which is maintained by the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF), and the key accidental drowning death insights are as follows:

• Inland open waters, such as rivers, canals, lakes, reservoirs and quarries continue to be the leading locations with 62 per cent of deaths (N=168).

• Males continue to over represent with 83 per cent of deaths (N=230).

• 40 per cent of people had no intention to enter the water, such as those walking, with causes including slips, trips and falls, being cut off by the tide, or being swept in by waves (N= 107).

Following this concerning increase in accidental water-related deaths last year, the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) is reminding people of the following lifesaving advice to help people enjoy our waterways and coastlines, particularly as warmer weather arrives, but water temperatures remain dangerously cold. 

  • If you get into trouble in the water, Float to Live.
  • Lean back and use your arms and legs to help you float, then get control of your breathing before calling for help or swimming to safety.
  • If you see someone else in trouble in the water, call 999 or 112. If you are at the coast ask for the coastguard, if you are inland, ask for the fire service.

The collaborating members of the NWSF, come from a wide range of sectors including sports governing bodies, rescue services, charities, regulators, navigation and harbour authorities, local government, utilities and those representing quarry operators. Later this summer NWSF will be launching its new #RespectTheWater campaign ahead of UN World Drowning Prevention Day on July 25th. The campaign will be promoted nationally to raise awareness of key safety advice and support the Forum’s mission to reduce drowning.

Dawn Whittaker, CEO East Sussex Fire Rescue Service & NWSF Chair said: “The pandemic continued to present considerable challenges at our coastal and inland waterways last year as more people had staycations. The #RespectTheWater campaign is designed to help prevent further deaths and injuries in water.

“We urge the public to understand the dangers, to learn the importance of knowing how to float to live, and to call 999 if others are in trouble and if there is a water related emergency.

Paddle boarding at St Margaret’s Bay near Dover Image: Pixabay

“We have seen increased numbers participating in water sports and water-based activities and consequently a rise of the number of incidents associated with activities such as Stand-up Paddle boarding 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, and endeavour to reach our collective goal of halving accidental drownings in the UK by 2026. 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 2021 report visit: https://www.nationalwatersafety.org.uk/waid

By Ed

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