Water Safety

Planning a Day on Water

When you're planning a day on the water be sure to check:

  • River conditions and flow rates at Alberta River Basins
  • Weather conditions from Environment Canada
  • Know the River's course and any hazards.
  • For water quality advisories by visiting the Alberta Health Services website. River water quality can vary due to heavy rainfall and upstream sources.
  • Plan your day: the location where you will start and stop, what time you will return.
  • Take the time to learn about and understand how long it takes to travel the waters during certain times of the year - based on water conditions.
  • Plan for a means of communication in case of an emergency.
  • Tell someone responsible your plan, where you are going and when you expect to return
  • Bring the right supplies

Know Before Going on the Water

Always SCOUT, ASSESS and DECIDE from shore before going on rivers, lakes and waterways

  1. SCOUT the river for current  and possible new potential hazards and check the weather and water conditions
  2. ASSESS the level of danger. Check the weather and for  any river advisories and assess the swimming and paddling skills of your crew
  3. DECIDE if it is safe to raft or boat

Wear Your Life Jacket

Even strong swimmers in shallow, slow-moving water are highly recommended to wear life jackets or personal flotation devices (PFD). Life jackets are sold at most sports and general goods stores and some local vendors may rent them for day use. 

Before Using Your Life Jacket or PFD, make sure to:

  • Check the size and weight restrictions
  • Start with the buckles and straps loose then fasten them from the bottom of the jacket to the top to ensure a snug fit
  • Once fastened, test the life jacket or PFD by holding your arms over your head and asking someone nearby to grab the tops of the arm openings and gently pull. Make sure there is no extra room above the arm openings and that the jacket does not ride up over your face or chin

Keep Children Safe Around Water

Remember to always keep toddlers or young children within arm’s reach while in or around all bodies of water. This applies to rivers, lakes and backyard bodies of water like ponds and pools. Lifejackets are critical for children and inexperienced swimmers. Encourage children to learn to swim and what to do in an emergency on the water.

Learn to swim
Swimming is a life-saving skill and gives you the confidence to safely take part in water sports throughout your life.

Bring the right supplies

Make sure you have the following before heading out:

  • Watercraft suitable for the body of water and conditions.
  • Properly fitting life jackets for everyone on board.
  • Water, hats and sunscreen to stay hydrated and comfortable.
  • Cell phone to call for help in case of emergency.
  • A complete water safety kit to have in your watercraft.

What's in a safety kit?

  • A bailing device to remove water from inside the watercraft. A hand-held bailer can be purchased or made by cutting the end of a bleach bottle.
  • A paddle or oar to help you control your craft.
  • A sound-signaling device to help with navigation, alerting others of your approach, or in case of emergency. This could be a portable air horn, whistle, mechanical whistle or bell.
  • A heaving rope or towing line (15 metres long) that floats to use for rescue or to pull your craft to safety.
  • Navigation or safety light to be used at night or in poor visibility.

Safety kits are required on all types of non-powered watercraft including kayaks, canoes, dinghies, inner tubes and rafts.


  • You should know where you are headed and what obstacles/water features are on your route. Examples include: bridge abatement, underwater hazards, shallow spots, trees, rocks, and wind direction
  • Allow yourself plenty of time to navigate around bridge piers and prepare for exiting the water before you reach your planned destination
  • Tying multiple rafts together will reduce maneuverability and could cause you to get caught on a bridge pier

Intoxication on the Water is Prohibited

Being intoxicated, in  possession of open liquor and/or drugs on waterways is illegal. Operating a watercraft requires focus, concentration and quick reaction to frequently changing river conditions. Intoxication by alcohol or drugs can impair your judgement on the water much like it does on the road.

In Alberta, the fines and penalties for boating under the influence are the same as for driving a motor vehicle. There is NO difference between drunk/stoned driving and drunk/stoned boating.