Rivers are the leading location for drowning in Australia. You can’t see ice cold water, snags like tree branches or strong currents but they can be lethal.

When enjoying inland waterways it’s important to be aware of the risks and stay safe. Whether you’re swimming, boating, or even just relaxing on the bank, there are many hidden dangers that you may not be aware of.

It’s simple, respect the river.

Never Swim Alone

It is important to take care when walking on slippery or uneven surfaces around or in water. Conditions should be checked before entering the water slowly, feet first. Avoid submerged obstacles, such as tree branches and rocks.

Avoid Alcohol around water

Alcohol often contributes to drownings. It impairs judgement, encourages greater risk taking behavior, reduces coordination, impairs reaction time and reduces the effectiveness of CPR, should someone require it. On average, approximately 25% of adult drownings deaths each year involve alcohol, with 44% of these occurring near rivers, creeks and streams. A further 9% of these occur in lakes, dams and lagoons.

Wear a lifejacket

Watercraft related drownings can occur if people do not wear lifejackets, consume alcohol and fall overboard, are not prepared for changing weather conditions, collisions occur or their vessels are not seaworthy. On average, 51 people a year drown while using watercraft. After oceans and harbours, rivers, creeks and streams are the second most common location for watercraft related drownings to occur with an average of 11 drownings per year.

Learning lifesaving skills

Gain the knowledge and skills to administer first aid until medical help arrives. Anyone at any time may need to give urgent assistance and a Royal Life Saving First Aid and / or Resuscitation Course will equip you with the necessary skills.

Wagga Beach

Additional advice to swim safe in our river and inland waterways

  • Always enter the water slowly, feet first, never dive in.
  • Never swim in fast flowing water. Check the speed first by throwing in a twig to see how fast it travels.
  • Never swim alone.
  • Swim safe. Swim sober. Do not swim under the influence of alcohol/drugs.
  • Riverbeds may be uneven, unstable or slippery, so take care.
  • Be sure of your own swimming ability.
  • Beware of any submerged objects such as trees, branches, rocks and discarded rubbish.
  • Look for eddies and swirling water, this may indicate rocks or snags just below the surface.
  • Always wear a PFD when in a water craft.
  • Remember the river can change hourly. What was safe in the morning may not be safe in the afternoon.

What to do if you are caught in a river current

  • Stay calm, float on your back, feet first to protect your head from impact with any object
  • Try to remain as horizontal as possible to assist with buoyancy
  • Use any available buoyant object to assist with floatation
  • Breathe in a regular and controlled manner and try to remain as still as possible to conserve energy and reduce heat loss
  • Do not struggle against the current, go with the flow, eventually it will push you towards the bank
  • If you must swim, use slow, relaxed strokes
  • Remember even if you are exhausted, you can float for a long time, so stay calm

Wagga Wagga City Council Inland Water Safety Management Plan

Wagga Wagga City Council, through the development of the Inland Water Safety Management Plan, can make an important contribution to water safety by implementing a range of initiatives related to the waterway reserves under Council’s management. Wagga Wagga City Council can also assist in facilitating a cohesive approach to water safety across the Local Government Area by supporting and reinforcing the initiatives of the professional organisations that operate in that space including Royal Life Saving Australia and State Emergency Services.


Inland water safety brochures:

Inland Water Safety - River Safety Fact Sheet 1.3 MB Download

No One is Drown Proof - River Safety Fact Sheet 1.4 MB Download

The Bare Facts - River Safety Fact Sheet 1.3 MB Download

Learn to Swim and Survive

The Oasis Regional Aquatic Centre offers Swim and Survive classes year-round in its heated program pool.

Royal Life Saving's Swim and Survive program is a national swimming and water safety program educating five to 14 year olds across Australia.

Swim and Survive provides a broad, balanced program of swimming, water safety and survival skills in preparation for a lifetime of safe activity in, on or near the water.

Swim and Survive develops:

  • Swimming technique
  • Water safety
  • Water confidence
  • Survival
  • Endurance

Swim and Survive caters for children of all abilities. The early levels provide opportunities to build confidence and respect for the water, while the upper levels prepare the child for the increased complexity of their relationship with aquatic environments.