LIFE Saving Victoria wants Wimmera men to avoid drinking alcohol while around water this summer.
It comes as new research published by the organisation shows 56 people drowned across the state in the past financial year - nine of them in which alcohol or illicit drugs were involved.
Research manager Rhiannon Birch said this included a 49 per cent increase for drowning deaths in inland waterways such as rivers, creeks and streams.
She said people aged between 15 and 44, and men, were over-represented in the drowning statistics.
Life Saving Victoria has this month launched a campaign encouraging men to look out for their own safety around water, as well as that of others.
"The most common activities have been swimming and boating, so it's important for people in that age group to have a good day but try to avoid alcohol when you're on the water - because that's a contributing factor - and wear a life jacket when boating," Ms Birch said.
"I believe almost everyone who has drowned in the past 10 years (in northwest Victoria) has been a male."
Statistics from Royal Life Saving Australia showed there were 20 drowning deaths in the Wimmera in the 18 years to June 30, 2019.
They show 90 per cent of those who died were male, half were between 25 and 44 years old and a quarter of those who drowned had fallen into the water unintentionally. One of the drowning deaths over this time frame occurred in a swimming pool, with the rest in dams, creeks, rivers and lakes.
"(North-west Victoria) is doing a really great job in terms of child water safety, there haven't been any drownings of anyone under 14 for 10 years, which is amazing," Ms Birch said.
"We've done a lot of campaigning in the child drowning space in the past 20 years, and we've got a huge decrease in drownings in that age group. Now we need to focus on adults and males."
Ms Birch noted inland waterways such as rivers and lakes weren't patrolled, so it was important people brushed up on their water safety and CPR skills.
Horsham Aquatics Centre swimming teacher Mackenzie Connelly developed a water safety program with interactive water safety displays for different age groups for 2019 Water Safety Week, which ran until December 6.
"A lot of the age group that comes into the centre are parents of children doing swimming lessons. We have statistics showing how 42 parents have drowned in the last 10 years nationwide going in to save their kids," she said.
"Identify the dangers and see if there's anyone around to help. If you're not a strong swimmer - I know it's parental instinct, but if there are other people at hand you can ask for help (do so).
"Always know the water you're swimming in. If you're not sure, don't jump into the water, just wade in so you know your surroundings. Also go slowly into the water because you don't know the hidden dangers underneath the water surface, and never swim alone."
Police to patrol Grampians waterways
Residents can expect to see police strike teams at several Wimmera watering holes this summer.
Water police Sergeant Fiona Robinson said the teams, made up of several members, would visit Lake Fyans east of Halls Gap, Moora Moora Reservoir at Glenisla and possibly also Green Lake east of Horsham between Boxing Day and Easter.
"It's to do with the level of risk - and by that, we mean the behaviour of people who are boating, water-skiing, jet-skiing on those waterways and how safe and compliant they are being with the safety equipment they're meant to carry," she said.
Sergeant Robinson said fire extinguishers and life jackets were among the compulsory equipment that boats needed to carry. She said the penalty for not having enough life jackets on board was $330, and fire extinguishers $207.
"Operating an unregistered vessel is $826, and the speeding ones are $330 as well," she said.
"Within 50 metres of a swimmer or another boat, you should be travelling no faster than five knots - which is walking pace."
Sergeant Robinson said it was "not often" police patrolled rivers. Life Saving Victoria's general manager Paul Shannon said the organisation had a life saving club in Mildura - their only patrolled inland waterway.
"The council in the area needs to decide whether it would like to invest in life saving services in those locations," he said.
"The starting point for that is assessing the risk, and if there are people recreating and the recommendations would be from a risk perspective that there needs to be some form of surveillance there, that would be something LSV would be interested in looking into.
"We provide paid lifeguard services between Christmas and Australia Day at our coastal beaches, so given the risk profile there is no reason why we wouldn't entertain providing lifeguards or other interventions such as rescue equipment or surveillance drones."
The Mail-Times has contacted the Victorian Farmers Federation for comment regarding how to be safe when swimming in farm dams.
Horsham College's health and physical education co-ordinator Rod Kirkwood said he believed more work could be done to promote how people looked after their friends when going swimming in farm dams - especially if they had been drinking alcohol.
"In year nine PE we do risk-taking and harm-minimisation work where we unpack situations such as the father and son drowning at Port Campbell. We look at what was done, what the risks were and the harm caused," he said.
While you're with us, you can now receive updates straight to your inbox twice weekly from the Wimmera Mail-Times. To make sure you're up-to-date with all the news from across the Wimmera, sign up below.