Choose a safe place to beat the heat

6 December 2023

With the weather heating up rural communities in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area are being reminded to choose a safe place to beat the heat, and not to take the risk of swimming in irrigation channels.

Murrumbidgee Irrigation (MI) Chief Executive Officer, Brett Jones, said MI values community safety around water and it is important to draw attention to the dangers of irrigation channels.

“Over 94% of major channels across the MIA are now automated- regulator gates are controlled remotely meaning flows and conditions can change quickly,” he said.

“Regulator gates can open without notice and create a trap, while siphons and pipes can create powerful suction or a water surge.”

“Also, channel lining projects over the past decade, including fencing, have significantly changed channel conditions in these areas.

“The High-density polyethylene lined channels are very slippery compared to the old earthen or concrete sections.

”If you are fishing in channels, please fish from a safe location. This includes staying away from roads, keeping out of the water and well clear of the edge."

Mr Jones also urged residents to take particular care of children around water hazards.

Swimming or playing in irrigation channels is discouraged for good reasons,” he said.

"They may appear to be a tempting place to cool off on a hot day but it's simply not worth the risk.”

"There are many hidden dangers that make irrigation channels a treacherous place to swim including strong undercurrents, varying channel depths, snakes and submerged objects. Overland flows from the recent flood events have also washed debris into our channels, which make them even more dangerous.”

MIA residents are advised to make use of safer alternatives for swimming such as local public pools and to make sure that children are taught early how to swim. Public pools provide qualified staff members that are on hand to supervise swimmers.

“Australians love the outdoors and swimming, but accidents can and do occur,” Mr Jones said.

“No matter how experienced a swimmer you are, always be alert around water.”

The following general swimming precautions could help save a life: don’t swim in irrigation channels; avoid fast flowing water; beware of submerged objects; don’t dive into water of unknown depth; know where young children are and never leave them unattended around water; and never swim alone.

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