Increase in accidental drownings lead for calls to Respect the Water

Water Safety Wales is urging people across the country to Respect the Water and reduce drowning this summer after a concerning increase in water-related deaths. 

The call comes as latest figures from the Water Incident Database (WAID) reveal that there were 25 deaths in Welsh waters from accidental drownings in 2020, up from 20 the previous year.

It is the first time in five years the number of accidental drownings in Wales has increased. These accidental drownings form part of the total water-related fatalities in Wales which stands at 50 for 2020, one fewer than the 2019 total of 51.

The number of accidental drownings across the UK also rose in 2020 to 254, an increase of 34 on the previous year.

In a call to action, members of the drowning prevention group Water Safety Wales have come together to ask everyone to #RespectTheWater and support the national campaign to reduce drowning this summer.

This joint campaign aims to reduce the number of water-related deaths and associated harm and is being supported by organisations from a wide range of sectors including sport governing bodies, rescue services, regulators, navigation and harbour authorities, local government, utilities and those representing quarry operators – all whom make up Water Safety Wales.

The national campaign, which aims to provide simple lifesaving advice which can help members of the public take responsibility for their own and their family’s safety by following these guidelines: 

  • If you find yourself unexpectedly in the water, Float to live
  • If you see someone else in trouble in the water, call 999 or 112

Other accidental drowning death insights in Wales:

  • Males make up 80% of all accidental drowning deaths
  • Almost half (44%) of accidental drownings involved people with no intention to enter the water, such as those walking or running by water
  • Inland open waters like rivers and lakes were the leading locations with 56% of accidental deaths
  • Almost a third (32%) of the accidental drownings happened in August and more than half (52%) happened on weekends

Chris Cousens, Chair of Water Safety Wales said:

“Last summer presented considerable challenges at our coastal and inland waterways. This has meant that members of Water Safety Wales have decided to come together around the #RespectTheWater campaign to help prevent further deaths. 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.”

In December, Water Safety Wales launched Wales’ first ever drowning prevention strategy, which has an aspiration of zero water related deaths in Wales by 2026.

Chris Cousens said: “Water Safety Wales believes one death is too many and the impact of losing someone to a death in the water cannot be underestimated. We will reduce drowning if everyone plays their part and Wales’ Drowning Prevention Strategy 2020-2026 aims to enable people living and visiting Wales to be safer in, on and around water by reducing water related deaths and incidents.”

To view and download the WAID 2020 report, which is maintained by the National Water Safety Forum, visit: