Council urges caution when visiting natural waterways
Posted on: 24.10.2019
Wollondilly has many rivers, waterholes, creeks and lakes such as Potholes, Thirlmere Lakes, the Nepean River and Mermaids Pool. As the weather warms up, people are often tempted to swim in these natural waterways without being aware of the dangers.
Wollondilly Council CEO Ben Taylor has advised that the majority of drowning deaths each year occur in natural water environments such as rivers, lakes, and dams.
“I would like to remind swimmers that inland waterways are not patrolled by lifeguards and should they get into trouble, there may be no one there to assist,” he said.
Changing weather patterns and storm events can significantly alter water flow and depth and create hidden obstacles under the water.
It is easy to be fooled by calm water on a clear day. The flat, still surface of an inland waterway can give a false sense of security, but currents under the surface can prove dangerous.
There may be hidden objects such as snags or rocks and there is no safe way out of some waterholes. This can make swimming in natural waterways a dangerous recreational activity with a lot of associated risks.
If you do choose to swim in the Wollondilly, here are some tips for swimming in inland waters provided by Water Safety NSW.
Look Before You Leap
- Check water depth - never dive in head first. Always enter the water slowly.
- Many people drown in NSW's rivers, lakes and dams, or are injured after diving into shallow water. If you are unfamiliar with the waterway, ask for advice from someone who is familiar with the area and waterway.
Lakes may look calm but are often very dangerous. Strong winds can create choppy conditions making it dangerous for swimming and boating.
- Strong currents are likely wherever a river enters a lake, and the lake bed may be soft and uneven where silt has been deposited.
- Cold water in lakes can be lethal. It is often much colder beneath the surface than you think. Suddenly submerging into cold water can cause distress, shock and lack of mobility. If you feel cold, get out of the water immediately.
- Never swim in fast-flowing water. Check the speed first by throwing in a twig to see how fast it travels.
- If you are caught in a current, float on your back and travel downstream, feet first, to protect your head from impact with any objects.
- Beware of submerged objects. Trees, branches, rocks and discarded rubbish can be very dangerous.
- Be careful not to stand near the edge of overhanging river banks, which can crumble away.
- Conditions can change rapidly due to heavy rainfall or the release of water from storage areas. Remember that what is safe in the morning can be dangerous by the afternoon.
- Watch out for soft or uneven river beds, which can cause difficulties for waders or swimmers.
- Never dive into a dam.
- Be aware that dam levels may change.
- Beware of submerged objects that may be hidden from view.
- After heavy rains, or after a period of drought, small children may not be aware that water levels have changed.