WATCH ABOVE: As people hit the river to cool off, they’re being reminded how dangerous it can be. Quinn Campbell reports.
LETHBRIDGE- For those looking to cool off, the Oldman River has never looked better, but it’s important to exercise water safety.
Dr. Vivien Suttorp with Alberta Health Services says it’s important to plan in case you are out longer than you anticipated, or face an unexpected incident.
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“You have to be cautious,” she said. “Sometimes you’re on the river for two hours and it’s fun, or the river is slower and you are actually on there much longer than expected, so always take extra water with you and also sun block and mosquito spray. Apply the sun block more frequently and reapply after being in the water.”
No matter your age or ability, Brent Nunweiler with Lethbridge Fire & EMS recommends you wear a life jacket on the river at all times.
“You can’t drown when you are wearing a life jacket,” he said. “We will always be able to find you on the surface, so it’s the safest way to travel with a life jacket or a PFD (personal flotation device).”
Consuming alcohol on the river is not only illegal, but dangerous. It could cost you more than the $115 fine.
“It changes your alertness, and that is a big risk in the rivers,” said Dr. Suttorp. “People do not necessarily make the right decisions when their level of alertness is impaired, and if it’s not the alertness that’s an issue, its dehydration.”
It’s also important to choose the right raft, as the low water levels expose even more hazards.
“Whatever you’re using for floating, make sure they’re a little bit better quality, because with the water level being low with high rocks, trees, debris…You could rip them pretty easy and you could get stranded,” said Nunweiler. “It’s a long walk, especially if no one knows you’re down there.”
It’s not just the obvious debris that can harm you. Dr. Suttorp says there are some serious hidden risks.
“As the river levels are lower and the flow is slower, we often have increasing other bacteria and parasites that may be populating and increasing in numbers in our rivers,” she said. “So do not drink the water and make sure you shower off afterwards.”
Dr. Suttorp added that when it comes to water quality in the rivers, it’s up to the users.
“The rivers, where there is no beaches, are not being monitored for that, so it’s basically taking your own risk.”