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Stay Safe in the Water

Sydney summer is all about getting in or on the water – in the pool, at the beach, on a boat or just heading to the river with your fishing tackle. Make sure you and your family stay safe while you're staying cool.

Kids and Water

Drowning is the leading cause of death for children under five years of age. Children can drown in as little as 5cm of water, when left unsupervised. Pools are an obvious risk but children can also drown in baths, spas, dams, rivers, creeks, garden ponds and nappy buckets. Many more children suffer brain damage and other serious injuries associated with near drowning experiences.

Simple key actions can prevent a child drowning:

  • Always supervise children around water
  • Restrict their access to pools
  • Educate children in water awareness
  • Ensure someone has resuscitation and first aid skills.

For more information, see the Kids Health website.

Swimming Pools

Any pool that is capable of being filled with water greater than 30cm in depth must have proper safety fencing installed – this includes in-ground pools, inflatable or above ground pools and spas. You must also ensure there are no objects near the fencing that a child could use to climb over the fence.

All pools must also be registered with the NSW Swimming Pools Register. If you own a pool, make sure you are aware of the new legislation requirements, as fines apply for non-compliance. For more information see our Swimming Pools information page.

The Beach

Many beaches in Sydney are patrolled by lifeguards and lifesavers. When they are on duty, they place red and yellow flags on the beach to show the safest area to swim – away from dangerous rips and currents, rocks and other hazards.

  • Always swim at patrolled beaches
  • Always swim between the red and yellow flags
  • Read and obey any signs
  • Don’t swim directly after a meal, or if you have been drinking alcohol
  • Don’t swim at dawn, dusk or at night
  • If you’re not sure it’s safe, don’t go in.

On the River

The Parramatta River is a great local attraction and host to many different water activities and vessels, from kayaks to the Rivercat ferries. Canoes and kayaks provide the opportunity to explore the river further, but they are small on the water and leave you vunerable. Be aware and keep clear of larger vessels when on the river and wear a life jacket. It's the law if you are more than 100 metres from shore or if you are on the ocean. If you are driving a recreational vessel, remember that the same rules apply on the water as they do on land - you must have a blood alcohol level under 0.05.

For more information on rules, regulations and safety information for different types of boats and boating activities on waterways, visit the RMS website.

For swimmers, rivers can be dangerous due to unpredictable currents and submerged hazards. Heavy rainfall or the release of water from storage areas can rapidly change conditions throughout the day – what was safe in the morning may be dangerous in the afternoon. Many people drown in rivers or are severely injured after diving into shallow water.

  • Never dive in head first
  • Always check the water depth before diving or jumping into rivers, lakes or other bodies of water
  • Watch out for soft or uneven river beds which can cause difficulties for waders or swimmers
  • Be careful when standing at the edge of a river or lake as they may be slippery and overhanging banks may crumble.

Learn to Swim

Learning to swim is a vital skill for everyone. Understanding basic water safety and being confident in the water is important for both adults and children.

The Ryde Aquatic Leisure Centre runs classes by qualified instructors for beginners of all ages to develop water confidence and to learn floating, submerging, safety skills and basic strokes. For more information, see the Swim School section of this website.

Remember, water awareness is not a substitute for supervision. Always keep watch when children are in or around water. 

Last updated on 29 June 2015