Elmbridge has beautiful waterways which are popular in all seasons, with visitors enjoying leisure time by the riverside or taking part in water sports activities.
Summer is a peak time to enjoy time in the water and while the warmer weather makes the river more inviting, we must remain aware that it is also directly linked to an increase in drowning incidents, especially amongst young people.
Water Safety has always been one of the Elmbridge Community and Safety Partnership’s priorities. We have a Water Safety Plan (PDF, 682.95 KB) and have been running a water safety campaign since 2018. We are leading the way in Surrey with a Drowning Prevention Plan developed in 2022 with partners at the Environment Agency, Surrey Fire and Rescue Services, Surrey Police, RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) and the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution).
This summer, we aimed to raise further awareness of the dangers of open water with our ‘Respect the Water’ Campaign. We worked on several projects as part of this campaign:
Free swimming courses for non-swimmers at the Xcel leisure complex in Walton in partnership with Places Leisure
During the May half-term and summer school holidays, 54 young non-swimmers aged 12+ took up our offer of a free course specifically designed to encourage them to develop water confidence and water safety skills.
Free lifeguarding courses run by Places leisure with RLSSUK instructors
For young people aged 16+ with a pathway to an apprenticeship at Xcel / Hurst Pool. In August, seven candidates took the course, and all passed the qualification. Two of them are now completing their apprenticeship at Xcel and one at Hurst Pool.
Water Safety Interactive Session
In June 2023, we engaged with most of our Year 6s (over 1,300 children) in the borough at a Junior Citizen event at the Civic Centre in Esher where the RNLI ran an interactive talk on water safety.
Local water safety events
Every year, Surrey Fire and Rescue Service and the RNLI hold water safety demonstrations at local community events. This summer, we publicised their visits to Albany Reach and Cowey Sale on our Elmbridge Borough Council social media channels to raise awareness and invite families to come along and get valuable water safety tips.
During the summer months, we signposted high usage areas with water safety banners and information boards at Cowey Sale, Walton Lane, Hurst Park, Cigarette Island and Albany Reach to advise users of the risks of open water.
In addition, we ran a social media water safety campaign over the summer months. This comprised 50 posts across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Short reels filmed with the RNLI highlighted the dangers of open water, what to do when entering the water unexpectedly, how to use a throwline, what to do when seeing someone in difficult in the water and a hard-hitting testimonial from Kevin Naylor, whose son Dominick tragically drowned in 2016.
In partnership with the RNLI, Surrey Fire Services and Kevin Naylor, we also produced a water safety video that can be viewed on Water safety.
In the early spring and the start of summer this year, we installed a further nine throwlines in high-risk areas, in addition to the four already installed. They are now available at Albany Reach, Cigarette Island, Cowey Sale, Hurst Park, Thamesmead, Walton Bridge, Walton Lane, and Waterside Drive.
Councillor Simon Waugh, Portfolio Holder for Leisure, Culture and Commercial Strategy, said: “We hope that this summer campaign will have increased local awareness of water safety. We want visitors to make the most of our beautiful local riverside sites, but we are urging them to respect open water and stay safe by being alert about the potential risks and dangers.”
We will continue working with our partners to implement our Drowning Prevention Plan and keep residents and visitors informed about Water Safety.
For further information, visit Water safety.