Hydropower is a clean, renewable source of energy. It is important to remember, however, that moving water is a very real drowning hazard.

Powerful, moving water near a hydropower facility can often be more dangerous than it seems. Even if the water looks calm, everything can change in a matter of seconds when a turbine starts up or a spillway opens, causing water to rush out and the water level to rise very quickly. When that happens, it’s very easy to be caught off guard, even if you’re in a boat.

Coming near a hydropower facility is just as dangerous as coming close to a waterfall. Stay clear!

How to stay safe around hydropower facilities,
upstream and downstream alike:

  • Be cautious and keep your distance.
  • When in doubt, keep away from the banks and don’t go swimming.
  • Keep children in sight at all times.
  • Always stay in designated observation areas.
  • Never bring your boat too close to a hydropower facility.

Snapshot of risks

  • Eddies, visible or invisible, which can drag you under.
  • Strong currents.
  • Sudden changes in water level.
  • Flash flooding of dry areas.
  • Recirculating water below weirs, no matter their height.
  • Steep or slippery banks.
  • Invisible rocks just below the surface.
  • Thinner ice around hydropower facilities.

Upstream and downstream, defined!

Picture a river flowing down a mountain into a valley. There's a dam across the river. The area between the dam and the top of the mountain is upstream (think about the connection between upstream and uphill). The area between the dam and the valley is downstream (think about the connection between downstream and downhill).

Video: Staying safe around a hydropower facility

Always stay clear of hydropower facilities, like hydroelectric generating stations, spillways and weirs. It’s just like getting too close to a waterfall! These images will give you an idea of the very real hazards you may face, both downstream and upstream, such as sudden water level changes, eddies and strong currents. It’s not hard to stay safe: stay away from the facilities, both along the shore and in the water. Always obey the warnings!