December 2018

River Safety

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Be River Safe

Rivers are changeable and unpredictable and contain hidden dangers

Hashtags: #beriversafe #knowyourlimits #watersafetynz #drowningprevention

Key messages

We have 180,000 kilometres of rivers in New Zealand that are largely unpatrolled.

Over the last ten years more people have died in preventable drowning incidents in rivers than in any other aquatic environment.

2007 – 2017

206 in rivers
197 at beaches
171 offshore

If you are jumping into a river look before you leap. Check for hidden objects. Swimming holes can change depth summer to summer and currents can move objects underwater.

Rivers change

Near dams water levels and flows can change significantly throughout the day and massive flows may be released at any time.

After heavy rain river banks can become unstable and rivers can change dramatically. Stay well clear of a river in flood. Never try and cross a river in flood. Take a longer route. It could save your life.

Rivers are powerful

There are strong currents and suction effects, and deep water especially near dams.

If you’re wading, wear a wading belt and a personal flotation device. A wading staff will give extra support and you can feel ahead for obstructions or changes in flow. Have someone with you for extra support and safety.

The pressure of moving water is constant and can be powerful even if the river looks slow moving and calm.

Never enter a river alone. If in doubt stay out.

Rivers can be unpredictable

Rivers are particularly dangerous after heavy rain and when in flood. Check the weather forecast and avoid rivers if heavy rain is forecast.

When rivers are in flood debris and fast flowing currents can cause banks to become unstable.

When swimming always enter a river with your feet first and establish an exit point beforehand. Check for hazards such as rapids downstream.

Swimmers often underestimate the power of a river and overestimate their abilities.

How to stay river safe when swimming:

  • Learn water safety skills, how to assess risk and how to swim.
  • Always swim as part of a group and get local knowledge.
  • Check for hazards both where you are swimming and downstream.
  • Do not mix swimming with alcohol or drugs.
  • Read and obey any warning signage

Remember the water safety code:

Be prepared, watch out for yourself and others, be aware of the dangers and know your limits.

WSNZ River Stats
WSNZ Riverfishing
WSNZ River Flood
WSNZ Hydro

River Safety Information courtesy from Water Safe New Zealand and Mercury Energy – Updated 11/12/2018.