Stay clear: drowning hazard

Hydropower is a clean, renewable source of energy. It is important to remember, however, that moving water is a drowning hazard. Coming near a hydropower facility is just as dangerous as coming close to a waterfall.

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.

Are you aware of the risk of drowning near a hydropower facility?

It is never a good idea to fish or swim near a generating station or a spillway, or hike in the drained area nearby.

When the generating station is in operation, even if the water looks calm, there are always strong eddies under the water that you cannot see. If you get close to them, the power of the water will overwhelm you and drag you to the bottom. Not even a life jacket or powerful boat motor will be enough to save you. Stay out of high-risk areas.

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!

Duration: 3 minutes 17 seconds

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).

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.