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New Australian Water Temperature Policy


In an pro-active, reasonable decision, Australia's Swimming New South Wales’
Technical Open Water Swimming Committee developed a new Water Temperature
Policy that was recently approved and announced by its Board of Directors.

It is a welcomed move in the open water swimming world.

The new water temperature policy can help other governing bodies and race directors
consider water temperature ranges to consider for safety reasons.

As part of its risk minimization program, Swimming New South Wales conducted an
investigation into recommended maximum and minimum temperatures for safe swimming in
the open water environment. It found that there appears to be no recognized authority that
has published such information.

A safe maximum water temperature is a risk that had not previously been considered,
whereas, a minimum water temperature for the conduct of open water swimming events has
been set by FINA and is currently 16ºC (60.8°F) and 18ºC (64.4°F) for masters swimmers.

As a result, the Technical Open Water Swimming Committee researched relevant


information and its recommendations were approved by the Swimming New South Wales
Board of Directors.

The water temperature ranges approved were as follows:

The minimum water temperature for the conduct of an open water swimming event
irrespective of distance is 16ºC (60.8°F).

The maximum water temperature for the conduct of an open water swimming event
irrespective of distance is 32ºC (89.6°F).

The water temperature shall be taken in the manner specified within the Open Water
Swimming Rules prior to the start of the event.

Where the water temperature exceeds 29ºC (84.2°F) and the ambient air temperature is 5ºC
(9ºF) or more higher than the water temperature, the event, no matter the distance, will be
postponed until the ambient air temperature has decreased by a minimum of 2ºC (3.6°F); and

In events of 10K and over, for each degree that the water temperature exceeds 29ºC (84.2°F)
and the ambient air temperature is 3º C (5.4°F) higher than the water temperature, the event
distance will be reduced by 2.5K. If the event distance is reduced by 50% or more, then the
event will be postponed and re-swum at a time and place determined by the event organiser.

For 5K events, the event will be postponed until Condition 3.4 has been achieved.

Copyright © 2010 by The Daily News of Open Water Swimming p. 1


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Where the water temperature exceeds 29ºC (84.2°F):

● feeding stations are permitted even where the rules preclude them
● throughout the event the water temperature shall be carefully monitored by the Safety
Officer in company with another independent person (who will witness the taking of the
temperature and the recording of temperature readings) with such information being
immediately relayed to the Chief Referee.
● If the water temperature increases, then the policy conditions referred to above shall be
applied immediately by the Chief Referee.

Where the water temperature was less than 17ºC (62.6°F) prior to the start of the event:

● throughout the event the water temperature shall be carefully monitored by the Safety
Officer in company with another independent person (who will witness the taking of the
temperature and the recording of temperature readings) with such information being
immediately relayed to the Chief Referee.
● if the water temperature decreases then the policy conditions referred to in condition
[described above] shall be applied immediately by the Chief Referee and the event stopped.

The definitions include ambient air temperature which means the temperature of the
surroundings.

The far-forward-acting Committee determined their new standards by reviewing information


from the FINA Open Water Swimming Rules, the Guidelines for Managing Risks in
Recreational Water drafted by the Australian Government, the National Health and Medical
Research Council documents of February 2008 (Section 4), and the Physiology of
thermoregulation during swimming by Neilsen, B. (1977) in Swimming Medicine IV -
Proceedings of the Fourth International Congress on Swimming Medicine by B. Eriksson & B.
Furberg, University Park Press.

The decisions and actions by the New South Wales Technical Open Water Swimming
Committee, in the middle of the Australian summer, are an admirable example of experienced
individuals acting quickly to develop reasonable standards for race directors, coaches and
athletes to consider when faced with extreme temperatures in open water swimming
competitions.

Copyright © 2010 by The Daily News of Open Water Swimming p. 2