Swimmers urged to be safe at natural waterways

Locals have been warned to take care when visiting natural waterways in Wollondilly as the weather warms up.

One of Wollondilly’s greatest assets is its natural attractions including its many rivers, waterholes, creeks and lakes such as Potholes, Thirlmere Lakes, the Nepean River and Mermaids Pool.

The allure of a cool dip and the beauty of the area can often distract visitors from the dangers.

In December last year a 27-year-old man died at Mermaids Pool.

NSW Fire and Rescue Picton captain Bill Morris said rescuers attended the area more than 10 times last summer to winch people who had injured themselves to safety.

His advice – don’t jump off the rocks into the water.

“There is no safe access in or out of the water at Mermaids Pool,” he said.

“I don’t recommend anyone jump off any of the rocks. They become very slippery when wet.

“People should never swim alone and they should know their swimming capabilities.

“People should always know the water depth and make sure there is nothing that you can hit if you dive into water.”

Wollondilly Council’s infrastructure and environment director Michael Malone said changing weather patterns and storm events could significantly alter water flow and depth, as well as create hidden obstacles under the water.

“It is easy to be fooled by calm water on a clear day,” he said. 

“The flat, still surface of an inland waterway can give a false sense of security, but currents under the surface can prove dangerous. 

“There is also the risk of hidden objects such as snags or rocks and the lack of a safe way out of some waterholes.

“This can make swimming in natural waterways a dangerous recreational activity and people who do, do so at their own risk.”

Council’s general manager Luke Johnson wanted to remind swimmers that inland waterways were not patrolled by lifeguards and should they get into trouble, there might not be anyone there to assist.

The council has provided tips on how locals and visitors can stay safe when enjoying the summer heat.

Lake Safety

  • 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.
  • The water is often much colder beneath the surface than you think and suddenly submerging into the cold water can cause distress, shock and lack of mobility.

River Safety

  • 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 and watch out for soft or uneven river beds, which can cause difficulties for swimmers.

Dam safety

  • Never dive into a dam.
  • Be aware that dam levels may change.
  • Beware of submerged objects that may be hidden from view.