Respect the River - About the project

Respect the River Internal

Inland waterways contain many environments where drowning deaths occur – rivers, lakes, dams, irrigation channels, water tanks and creeks have all been sites of drowning deaths.

The flat, still surface of an inland waterway can give a false sense of security. Currents, undertows or submerged objects – even in seemingly tranquil waterways – can prove to be very dangerous. Inland waterways are not patrolled by lifeguards, and should someone get into trouble, there may be no one there to assist.

Remember that water conditions can change very quickly. What may have appeared safe earlier could become very different a few hours later. Submerged objects, like branches or rocks, are often invisible from above the surface and present a real risk of neck and spinal injuries, especially to divers. Always enter the water slowly, feet first and never dive in. Be aware that cold water can cause hypothermia. Water can also be deeper than first thought due to steep drop-offs in dams or riverbeds.

People of all ages and ability drown in inland waterways. Between 1 July 2002 to 30 June 2016 there were 1,045 drowning deaths in Australian rivers, creeks and streams.

Did you know that most drowning deaths occur in natural water environments - rivers, lakes, and dams? Don’t be fooled by calm water on a clear day, many seemingly tranquil waterways can present dangerous hazards.

Q. Why do drownings occur in inland waterways?

There are many reasons drowning deaths occur in these areas. The flat, still surface of an inland waterway can give a false sense of security. Currents, even in seemingly tranquil waterways can prove dangerous. Inland waterways are not patrolled by lifeguards, and should someone get into trouble, there may be no one to assist them. Swimmers can also get panicked if they get caught in submerged objects, which are present in many of these waterways.

Q. Where do drownings occur?

A. In inland waterways there are many environments where drowning deaths have occurred – rivers, lakes, dams, irrigation channels, water tanks and creeks have all been the site of drowning deaths.

Q. What safety precautions can I take if I want to swim in an inland waterway?

A. Remember that water conditions which may have been suitable one day can change hourly with the current. Submerged objects, like branches or rocks, are often invisible from above the surface and present real risk of neck and spinal injuries, especially to divers. Always enter the water slowly, feet first – never dive in. Be aware also that cold water can cause hypothermia.

Q. Why are inland waterways dangerous?

A. Changing seasonal patterns, flooding and other effects of nature can cause inland waterway to change. Remember if the water crossing is flooded don’t try to cross it, while it may look calm and shallow on the surface it is possible that the road that was there no longer exists.Click here to download a print friendly version of the Inland Waterways Fact Sheet

THE FACTS

Royal Life Saving River Research Key Findings

  • 735 people have drowned in Australian rivers, creeks and streams between 1 July 2002 and 30 June 2012
  • Men account for 80% of all drowning deaths in rivers across the decade
  • New South Wales recorded the highest number of drowning deaths with 246 drowning deaths, followed by Queensland with 219 and Victoria with 98 river drowning deaths
  • Falls into water accounted for 20% of river drowning deaths, followed by accidents involving non-aquatic transport (18%), swimming and recreating (15%) and accidents involving watercraft (14%). Activity was unknown in 18% of river drowning deaths.
  • 17% of all river drowning deaths took place in remote or very remote areas of Australia
  • 17% of all river drowning deaths were known to be flood related.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders drown in rivers at a rate that is 4.5 times that of the non-Indigenous population

Royal Life Saving Top 10 River Drowning Black Spots

  1. Murray River
  2. Brisbane River (QLD)
  3. Yarra River (VIC)
  4. Swan River (WA)
  5. Hawkesbury River (NSW)
  6. Murrumbidgee River (NSW)
  7. Sandy Creek (QLD)
  8. Derwent River (TAS)
  9. Katherine River (NT)
  10. Macquarie River (NSW)