Young men were over-represented as 36 people, including one at Wyangala Dam, lost their lives in drowning incidents across NSW during the 2017-18 summer.
Eighty per cent of people who drowned over summer were male and the highest risk category was the 25-34 age group.
A total of 14 people drowned at inland waterways such as rivers, creeks, dams and lakes while there was just one swimming pool drowning this summer, a dramatic improvement on 2016-17.
Twenty-one people died on the states beaches.
Minister for Emergency Services Troy Grant said the numbers were an improvement on the previous summer but there were still too many people drowning.
“While we have seen a 12 per cent drop in drownings from last year, regrettably 36 lives were lost this summer,” Mr Grant said.
“For us to continue to see a decrease in tragic drowning deaths, we need everyone to take on board our water safety messages endorsed by the experts.”
And while most of the focus might be on beaches up and down the NSW coast, Mr Grant said there was just as much danger for people living in regional areas.
“I urge everyone to enjoy our rivers, lakes, and backyard swimming pools, but to do so responsibly and safely,” he said.
“In my electorate of Dubbo we’ve seen tragedy strike for two years in a row on the Macquarie River.
“Unfortunately, we can’t have lifeguards at swimming spots. We have led a number of initiatives to increase water safety and our message is clear – where there is water, there is danger.”
The biggest improvement came during the peak summer danger period between December 25 and January 2. In 2016-17, a total of 17 people drowned, while in 2017-18, that dropped to just six deaths.
Throughout 2017, the government consulted heavily with water safety experts, and increased public awareness with record investment in water safety campaigns and educational programs that increase water safety awareness and swimming skills to at risk groups.
Mr Grant said the success of that campaign, and a water safety forum, meant similar methods would be employed this year.
Royal Life Saving will also prepare a detailed analysis of drowning deaths that will be available later in the year.