Water Safety Policy

The Highland Council area is surrounded by 5,000km of coastline and contains more water than any other Council area in Scotland with more than 640 named freshwater lochs, 784 contained rivers within 59 catchment areas as well as the Caledonian Canal.

In line with Scotland's Drowning Prevention Strategy 2018 - 2026, we have developed a Water Safety Policy and set up a multi-agency Water Safety Group.

This policy formalises our approach to water safety management. This will be an ongoing risk-based approach of known hot spots which, given the bodies of water that exist within the Highlands, is a pragmatic and feasible step. This will ensure that effective, efficient, and sustainable water safety management is applied in a proportionate manner.

The Water Safety Policy explains our approach for land in its ownership and stresses the need for people to take their own responsibility and be aware of the risks water poses. Some key advice on how to stay safe is listed below as well as useful sources from some of Highland Council's partner agencies.

We have also joined with Highlife Highland to produce an Adventure Activity Safety Guidance which is intended for all staff involved in the planning, delivery, management or supervision of staff-led adventurous activity for young people, including families, and vulnerable adults within the Highland Council and High Life Highland.

Water Safety - how to stay safe

Spot the dangers:

  • It can be very cold
  • There may be hidden currents
  • It can be difficult to get out (steep, slimy banks)
  • It can be deep
  • It is difficult to estimate depth
  • There may be hidden rubbish e.g. shopping trolleys, broken glass
  • There are no lifeguards
  • It may be polluted and may make you ill

Contact the emergency services if you see anyone in difficulties.

Open water safety tips:

  • Be aware of your surroundings and take notice of any warning signs when out and about
  • When running or walking next to open water, stay well clear of bank edges. They are often unstable, and this can lead to slips, trips and falls
  • Try to always walk or run with a friend
  • Always let someone know where you're going - take your mobile phone
  • Learn swimming and lifesaving skills
  • Never enter the water if you have consumed alcohol

Go together:

  • Children should always go with an adult, not by themselves
  • An adult can point out dangers or help if somebody gets into trouble

Useful Sources:

Water Safety Scotland - Water Safety Code with language translations

Royal National Lifeboat Institute - Know the Risks

ROSPA - Water Safety and Drowning

Royal Life Saving Society

Fire and Rescue Scotland - Water Safety

Forestry and Land Scotland - Water Safety

Scottish Water - Water Safety

Scottish Government Water Safety Action Plan

HM Coastguard - Coastal Safety

Scottish Canals - Canal Careful