Experts are calling on Aussies to be safe around the water this summer following the BoM's declaration of La Nina weather conditions and some alarming statistic.
With increased rainfall, river rising could play a part in a potential drowning accidents, with data showing more than one third of all drowning deaths are more than 50km from home in unfamiliar waters.
The Royal Life Saving Society said unfamiliar swimming, boating, and fishing spots increased the risk of drowning. Sandbars, rips, unpredictable currents, debris below the water surface and swiftly changing local conditions are all often well-known to locals, but harder to spot by visitors.
Royal Life Saving Society - Australia Chief Executive Officer, Justin Scarr said the new research showed that more than half of all Australians would travel to an aquatic location over the summer, including rivers, swimming pools, harbours and beaches.
"After the past two years, we know people are eager to get out, explore our waterways and relax," Mr Scarr said.
"Royal Life Saving is urging everyone to enjoy themselves, but to prepare and brush up on safety precautions, especially in unfamiliar locations.
"Our research shows more than half of all adults will drink alcohol around the water and we know alcohol is one of the biggest risk factors for drowning among adults.
"Add to that the fact a lot of us have been out of the water during the pandemic and are out-of-practice and you have a perfect storm. So please, avoid alcohol, avoid going alone and wear a lifejacket when swimming, fishing or boating so you make it home safely."
Researchers said increased rainfall levels could see rivers and dams swelling.
"The prediction of a wet summer with above-average rainfall will increase water levels in dams, lakes and rivers," Dr Amy Peden an injury prevention researcher at the School of Population Health, UNSW Medicine & Health says.
"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 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 three per cent this year compared with the 10-year average.
"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," explained Dr Peden.
"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."
Dr Peden said adult supervision was critical in preventing youth drowning, while limiting alcohol consumption reduces risk for adults.
"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," said Dr Peden.
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.
"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."
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