19.5 C
Byron Shire
January 23, 2022

Respect the river and be water safe

Latest News

Boat people we are

We here in this country, now called Australia, need to be reminded that we started off as ‘boat people’. The...

Other News

Astrological gravitas

The Mullum Aeronautics and Space Administration (MASA) will soon launch the Spiders Webb telescope, which will break through to...

Casino’s winning tap water ways

Yesterday Casino was announced as the winner of the Water Industry Operators Association of Australia’s Ixom 2021 Best Tasting Tap Water in Australia competition.

Holy Joe: premium cold-drip coffee and medicinal mushrooms

After a long addiction to regular espresso and an urge to try something new, lifelong tinkerer James Bullock hammered...

NSW COVID update on COVID deaths – vax stats and comorbidities

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet again opened his COVID update with condolences to families who have lost loved ones, and thanks to the  ‘inspirational work of our health workers'.


Dear Editor, good on you for your piece reminding us about the importance of public discourse. Like you, I find...

Reform needed to deliver electric trucks in Australia

With the aim of getting more electric-powered trucks on Australian roads, the Electric Vehicle Council and the Australian Trucking Association have collaborated to develop the policies necessary to drive Australian trucking into an electric future.

Paddlers on Jerusalem Creek after the recent heavy rain event. Photo Tree Faerie.

Summer is definitely the time when more people spend time in our oceans and waterways and despite their beauty, they can be deadly. Rivers in particular can be very dangerous places and they remain the top location for drowning. 

In the lead-up to school and summer holidays – a peak period for drowning – injury prevention researcher at the School of Population Health, UNSW Medicine & Health, Dr Amy Peden offers tips to stay safe this summer. 

Dr Peden says that with the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) recently declaring a La Niña event, the outlook for summer in Eastern Australia is likely to be wetter than average. ‘With that comes rising river levels – an important factor we need to be mindful of when enjoying our beautiful waterways this summer. 

‘The prediction of a wet summer with above-average rainfall will increase water levels in dams, lakes and rivers.

‘For rivers this can mean conditions can vary hour-by-hour, resulting in new debris or snags being washed downstream. It can also impact the speed with which the water is flowing as well as an increased risk of flooding.

Dr Peden says that every year more than 10 people die in flood-related incidents, some after intentionally entering floodwaters. ‘It is never safe to enter floodwaters, be it on foot, in a vehicle or on a bike, and they should be avoided at all costs. This includes not allowing children to play in floodwaters or near drains.’ 

Year-round drowning risk 

While drowning often commands a lot of attention in the summer months, drowning deaths in rivers are not seasonally dependent and occur throughout the year and all seasons, including boating and fishing related river drownings in the winter months. Dr Peden said males are more likely to drown than females, with four males drowning for every one female. 

According to the Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report 2021, rivers remain the leading location for drowning with deaths increasing by 3% this year compared with the 10-year average. 

Dr Peden said we see extremely elevated rates of river drowning in rural areas compared to the city – up to 29 times the risk of drowning in a river in an area classified as very remote when compared to areas classified as major cities. ‘With rivers, there is also the added element of flood risk and changes to the river environment with debris, in addition to fast-flowing water.’

‘And finally, one of the biggest issues we see in cases of river drowning in Australia is alcohol consumption. My research shows elevated blood alcohol concentrations are a real issue at rivers. On average, adult river drowning victims who had been drinking were four times the upper legal limit for driving a car (a BAC of 0.20% or higher) at their time of death. Consuming such significant amounts of alcohol around the water understandably increases drowning risk and was often involved in fatal incidents as a result of falls into water or jumping into the water from trees or bridges.

The highest rates of river drowning are among those aged 75 years and over, however, river drowning risk occurs throughout the lifespan, with river drowning impacting children under five years of age through to older people. 

‘We also see high numbers of people drowning in rivers in the 18-44 years age groups. Sadly, river drowning among these age groups are overwhelmingly male and tend to involve high levels of alcohol. Drowning among younger children is often due to a temporary or complete absence of adult supervision and unintentional falls into water, often fully clothed. That’s why active supervision of young children, around all aquatic locations, is incredibly important.’  

What can we do to reduce the risk of river drowning? 

‘There is a lot people can do to reduce their risk of drowning in a river. Rivers are beautiful, natural places to swim but deserve respect. It’s vital to always supervise children around the water and for people of all ages, as well as children, to be aware of crumbling river banks that can cause unstable edges leading to falls into the water.

Dr Peden suggests if you’re in an unfamiliar location, heed any warning signs and talk to locals about the safest places to swim and what conditions have been like lately. 

She said always enter the water feet first and be cautious of debris. Always avoid alcohol prior to getting in the water and if you’ve had a few drinks, don’t go back in. 

‘Look out for your friends around the water too, especially If you’ve got a mate who’s had a few too many. Wear a lifejacket when paddling or boating. And learning first aid and CPR skills are helpful in all kinds of emergencies including responding to drowning incidents, particularly if you’re in a rural location where it may take some time for medical assistance to reach you.’ 

What should you do if caught in a river current? 

While on the surface, a river may look deceptively tranquil and calm. But what is going on beneath the surface could be a different story altogether. 

Dr Peden said rivers can be deadly because the different hazards of the river are often hidden beneath the surface or hard to see. 

‘Often the river may look calm and still, but it’s not until you observe it for some time or look at the speed with which a tree branch or leaf is moving through the water, that the speed of the current becomes apparent.’  

‘Similarly, the murky water often hides shifting and slippery riverbeds and submerged objects like glass and snags such as tree branches. So, it’s really important to check the conditions before you go in. Enter slowly, feet first and be aware the water may take you away if your feet are off the bottom. If you do get caught in the current, it’s important to stay calm, float feet first down the river and wave your arms or shout for help.” 

Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Israel and Palestine

As an apologist for Israel, Michael Burd (Letters, 12 January) conveniently ignores the harsh truth of Israel’s brutal oppression, while claiming there are two...

Greens Mandy Nolan to hold community forum in support of nurses and paramedics

Locally and across the state nurses, and paramedics are struggling in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as they are being asked to do double shifts and manage effectively in health system that is struggling to cope. This has led to an increasing number of nurses and paramedics resigning.

NSW COVID update on COVID deaths – vax stats and comorbidities

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet again opened his COVID update with condolences to families who have lost loved ones, and thanks to the  ‘inspirational work of our health workers'.

January 21 National Cabinet on Omicron, RATs, vax and treatments

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has issued a media release about yesterday's meeting of the National Cabinet.