VANCOUVER, B.C. – A new BC Hydro report has shown an increase in drowning or near-drowning cases at recreation sites could be tied to risky behaviour in the water and overestimating their swimming skills.

With COVID-19 restrictions, a survey was conducted on behalf of BC Hydro, saw that around 70 percent of British Columbians are planning staycations or holidays within the province, with most saying they’ll visit local lakes and rivers.

This survey also found that many people in the province overestimate their swimming abilities. Although 85 percent rated themselves as experienced swimmers, most are only in the water a few times each summer. In addition to that, many residents of the province haven’t completed a formal swimming lesson in over ten years, and ten percent said they have never completed a single lesson.

This lack of experience could explain why almost 30 percent of British Columbians say they’ve had a near-drowning experience, and 53 percent have witnessed another person in distress while in the water.

This could also be attributed to unsafe behaviors:

  • around half confess they have gone into the water under the influence of alcohol or marijuana
  • around 20 percent admit to swimming where they’re not supposed to be
  • more than 40 percent of parents acknowledge being somewhat distracted when their children are in the water.
  • 24 percent of boaters, 27 percent of kayakers, 28 percent of canoers and 58 percent of tubers have admitted to not wearing personal flotation devices

IF you’re visiting BC Hydro recreation sites, Hydro recommends the following:

  • Never leave children unsupervised in or near the water. Children and non-swimmers should always wear a personal flotation device.
  • Watch for changes in the weather and check the forecast before heading out on the water.
  • Provide an approved flotation device for everyone in a boat or canoe
  • understand that many lakes in the recreation facilities are cold enough to cause serious harm. Coldwater can reduce body heat 25 times faster then air does at the same temperature.
  • Stay out of the water if under the influence of drugs or alcohol as they can affect judgment and reaction time.
  • Keep outside of safety booms and buoys and away from all dam structures.

More information on recreation sites can be found on the BC Hydro website.