Water Safety Isn't Seasonal

After a long winter, nothing sounds more refreshing than taking a swim in a nearby lake, river or pool.

However, a fun trip to the water could turn sour or disastrous in a matter of seconds.

According to the National Drowning Prevention Alliance, drowning takes an average of 3,000 to 4,000 lives every year. That averages to around 10 drowning deaths every day in the United States, not including boating incidents. While drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children from ages 1-4, drowning does not discriminate. Even great swimmers are susceptible to water accidents, especially in uncontrolled environments like rivers and lakes.

May is National Water Safety Month, just in time for the warmer weather and summer vacation. With increased traffic on the water, it's vital to take the necessary precautions to prevent boating and swimming accidents. Fortunately, you can take a variety of steps to help protect you, your family, and friends while on the water.


A Coast Guard-approved life jacket is the best precaution that you can take to prevent drowning. In Texas, boaters are required to have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for every person on their boat, including infants. Children under the age of 13 are required to wear a lifejacket while on a moving watercraft.

Life Jackets

And, don't forget your furry friends! Life jackets are not required for pets, but if you're taking your pets out on the water, it doesn't hurt to provide a little extra protection with a life jacket of their own. You can learn more about Texas' life jacket regulations here.

To make sure that your life jacket fits, put on the life jacket and fasten the straps. Then, hold your arms straight up over your head and ask a friend to grasp the top of the arm openings and gently pull up. The life jacket shouldn't be able to slip past your ears and should fit snugly.


If you own a pool or spa, be sure to fence the area around them with adequate barriers. According to the National Safety Council, emergency departments treat around 6,400 pool and spa injuries for children 15 and younger every year. Placing barriers around these areas will help keep children out and allow them to swim only when there is an adult present. Constant supervision and barriers are vital, even when children have completed swimming classes.

It's 0.08

While we want everyone to have fun and enjoy Texas water, please do so responsibly. Just like driving a vehicle, someone operating a boat is considered legally intoxicated if their blood alcohol level is 0.08 or greater. Have a designated driver operate the boat or leave the drinks back at the dock. You can always enjoy them when you are safely back on land. And, remember, young children cannot be your designated driver on the water or land.

Finally, if you are not confident in your swimming abilities, don't take the risk. Avoid going into the water until you know how to swim. Fortunately, there are swim lessons available for all ages.


Whether you are in the pool or at a BRA reservoir, there are plenty of safety tips that you can follow while you are in the water. However, swimming in an open body of water has different obstacles and considerations. Make sure the body of water matches your skill level—swimming in a pool is different from swimming in a lake or river, where more strength is needed to handle currents.

Waterborne Illness

If you do swim in an open body of water, it's important to be aware of a rare but usually fatal illness caused by a waterborne amoeba called Naegleria fowleri that resides in all lakes, streams, rivers and ponds in Texas. Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis, or PAM, is a disease caused by the naegleria fowleri. The amoeba thrives in freshwater that is warmer than 80 degrees and is stagnant or slow-moving. The infection only occurs when the amoeba is present in surface water, and that water is forced up a person's nose during activities such as jumping, diving, or swimming. The disease can't be spread from person to person, and people can't become infected by swallowing the water.

One way to greatly reduce infection risk is to avoid submerging your head when swimming in freshwater. By using nose clips, holding your nose or simply not going underwater dramatically decreases the chance of infection. Since the amoeba is also found in dirt, you should also avoid digging or stirring up sediment in the water. Another factor to consider before selecting a swimming spot is dead fish. If dead fish are floating in an area, stay on the safe side and relocate to another spot. To learn more about waterborne illnesses, go here.

Designated Swim Areas

Before you take your first dip into the cool water, make sure you are in a designated swimming area. Swimming in open water puts you in the path of ski boats and jet skis that are not looking for bobbing heads in the water, especially during busy holiday weekends. Besides boat traffic, be careful leaping into the open water as large objects, rocks and tree stumps may not be seen from above the water. If you do get caught in a current, stay calm and float with it. Don't fight the current but try to swim parallel to the shoreline until you can get out.

Adult Water Watchers

Swimming with a friend is always more fun, plus it helps you stay safe. Swimming alone will make it difficult to contact authorities in case of an emergency. If children are in the water, a designated "water watcher" that can pay attention to swimmers is important for both pools and open bodies of water. Drowning can be silent, quick, and can even happen in very shallow water, so it's vital that an adult watch the water with their full attention. CPR performed by bystanders can save lives and increase survival chances. Take time to learn CPR in case of emergencies.

Watch the Weather

As Texans know, the state's weather can change in an instant. Sunny days on the water can turn into dangerous weather before you are able to return to shore. Be aware of local weather conditions and forecasts before going out on the water. Thunderstorms with lightning and strong winds create dangerous swimming and boating situations.

Water safety doesn't only apply to swimmers—paddlers and boaters can help protect passengers on their boat and swimmers in the water by always watching their surroundings. Always pay attention to your surroundings and keep a safe distance from others. This means no beaching or rafting your boat next to someone else and keeping your distance at the fuel stations.

And, bring some to drink…

Hydration is key while enjoying the hot Texas sun, so pack plenty of water for everyone in your group. Be sure to apply liberal amounts of sunscreen to prevent sunburns. Apply sunscreen before going outside and reapply after swimming or sweating. Pack plenty of water if you plan on being outdoors and avoid drinks with high sugar levels and alcohol. If you plan on being outdoors for an extended period of time, have a designated air-conditioned or shaded area where you can cool off.

Just taking a few extra minutes to implement water safety tips will help keep you and your family safe during Nation Water Safety Month and beyond.
If an accident does happen on the water, make a report immediately by dialing 911.
Enjoy your time on Texas water, stay aware and remember to wear a life jacket!