The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (Rospa) has found Scotland's 25,000 lochs, numerous rivers and burns, plus the three seas that surround it, offer a wealth of business and leisure activities, worth some £4 billion to the economy.
However, as a result, it has a higher rate of water fatalities, with 108 drownings in 2011, of which 53 were due to accidents or natural causes. Across the UK, there was a total of 701 drownings of which 407 were as a result of accidents or natural causes. In Scotland that meant five deaths per million of population, against 3.5 in the rest of the UK.
Figures for this year are likely to remain high, with a number of young people losing their life as the warm conditions drew people to spend more time outdoors.
Despite the risks, Rospa found Scottish local authorities have an inconsistent "ad hoc" approach to water safety, despite a high rate of fatalities.
In the first study of its kind, the charity has looked to what extent local authorities are organised and focused upon addressing the burden of drowning and water-related accidents.
It acknowledged that addressing water safety was challenging, given the myriad landowners and agencies involved. But it also found less than half had a policy commitment on water safety.
While more than two-thirds of authorities were aware of groups that covered water safety issues, more than half of councils said they did not have a specific person or group who took control.
Carlene McAvoy, community safety development officer for RoSPA Scotland, said: "Overall, the survey found much disparity and inconsistency in approaches. Several authorities were addressing water safety, but there was little in the way of uniformity or issues being addressed strategically.
"Worryingly, more than half said they did not have a specific person or group who took control of the issue. This study highlights there needs to be a better understanding of water safety, greater sharing of resources, as well as much more information on good practice."
Police Scotland has issued several warnings about swimming outdoors this summer following a number of tragedies.
Sean-Paul Marshall, 20, and Ross Munn, 17, died last month while swimming with friends at the Mill Glen Reservoir, near Ardrossan, Ayrshire, when they were pulled under the surface by an undercurrent.
The case highlighted how Right To Roam legislation, which extends to bodies of water, prevented reservoir owner Scottish Water from stopping people entering the site. It also stopped the authority displaying "no swimming" signs.
Last month, Mateusz Wilamowski, 16, from Poland, was swept away after trying to cross the River Tay, on the outskirts of Perth.
While councils have no statutory requirement on water safety, unlike roads, Rospa said they had duties as land-owners and for managing waterways on their sites, such as lakes.
The charity said there was a clear need for councils to work together on water safety and share good practice with other agencies.
It also said further work was required on policy development and identifying those groups most at risk from water.
Councillor David O'Neill, president of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, said: "Scotland's councils treat their community safety role extremely seriously and have a good record on community safety - with all 32 authorities having relevant plans and procedures in place."
He said Scotland's large number of waterways must be taken into account when considering the statistics.