top of page


Water Safety New Zealand

Global Economic Cost of Drowning

Research from New Zealand, and elsewhere, relating to the cost of aquatic drowning.

Alcohol and Drowning Prevention

Research from New Zealand, and elsewhere, relating to alcohol and drowning prevention.

Keep Looking

Can you see the bottom? Is it deep enough for jumping or diving? Does the riverbed drop away close to the edge? Could you handle the current if you got swept away?

Swimming in Rivers

Many people do not understand the force of water in a river. If you swim out of a swimming hole into the river current you can be swept down the river by the force of the water

Establish an exit point

It’s easy to get in but can you get out?

Jumping into Rivers

The river changes every day. You need to check out your jump or dive spot EVERY DAY before you start having fun.

Quick Access

Changeable and Unpredictable

Rivers change

Rivers are changeable and unpredictable and can contain hidden dangers. Look before you leap. Check for hidden objects and swimming holes can change depth summer to summer and currents can move objects underwater. Near dams water levels and flows can change significantly throughout the day and massive flows may be released at any time. River banks can become unstable during flood and after heavy rain. Stay well clear of a river in flood.

Strong Currents 

Rivers are powerful

There are strong currents and suction effects, and deep water especially near dams.If you’re wading, 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

Rivers are not patrolled. Never enter a river alone. If in doubt stay out.The pressure of moving water is constant and can be powerful even if the river looks slow moving and calm.

Stay River Safe

Swimming in Rivers

Swimming spots in rivers can be great places in summer. If you pick your spot carefully and check it out each time you swim there you can keep yourself and your friends safe. Swimming in a river is different from swimming in a pool or in the sea. Swimmers often underestimate the power of the river or overestimate their own abilities. The river bottom is irregular and can change from day to day. It is often difficult to tell how deep a certain part of the river is. Annually there are a number of serious injuries caused by people jumping into water that is too shallow. Check out any jumping spot thoroughly before jumping. Do this by getting in the water and physically checking the depth and the whole landing area. Do this every time you visit a jumping spot to check that nothing has drifted into the landing zone since you were last there.

How to stay river safe:

  • Learn water safety skills, how to assess risk and how to swim.

  • Always swim as part of a group.

  • Check for hazards both where you are swimming and downstream.

  • Do not mix swimming with alcohol or drugs.

  • Read and obey any warning signage.

Cross Safely

River Crossings

Should you cross?

  • Crossing alone is hazardous and it is not recommended that you get yourself into a river crossing situation if you are alone.

Where should you cross?

  • Never cross a river in flood – 80% of river crossing drownings have occurred when the river has been in flood.

  • Check the speed of the river, look downstream for run out hazards and see if there are good entry and exit points

  • Avoid crossing on a bend, above a place where another stream joins the river and where the water is dirty and cloudy

When crossing always:

  • keep your body side on to the current;

  • take small shuffling steps;

  • move diagonally downstream with the current to conserve your energy;

  • have a leader to control the crossing make sure that everyone can hear instructions before you get into the river;

If the crossing does not go as planned, stay linked up and back up slowly out of the river. Do not break the link until everyone is into very shallow water.

Powerful Force

Rivers in Flood

A significant danger is created when our rivers, creeks and streams flood. Debris and fast flowing currents can cause banks to become unstable and even a small rise in the water level can dramatically change the way a river flows. When inland waterways are in flood it is important to keep out of the water wherever possible and keep well away from river and creek banks, they can become weak and subject to collapsing.

Latest Research

This page receives drowning prevention research from a wide range of sources, including international.

Our intention is to grow the scope of this research so that it becomes a comprehensive resource.

Current Numbers



There have been 14 official drownings to date in 2023. This number is updated weekly.



There were 93 official preventable drowning fatalities in the 2022 calendar year.



There have been 14 official drownings to date in the 2023 summer period. 



There were 90 official preventable drowning fatalities in the 2021 calendar year.



As a gender split, 84.95% of 2022 drowning fatalities were male. 15.05% were female.  



There were 84 official preventable drowning fatalities in the 2021 calendar year.


Be River Safe

Learn how to recognise hazards and stay safe around rivers. 

bottom of page