Stay safe in the water

Hennepin County works to reduce drownings and water-borne illnesses

Stay safe in the water

Water is all around us in Minnesota – whether that’s a pool, aquatic attraction, or one of Minnesota’s more than 10,000 lakes. But all that water can be dangerous.

Every day, about 10 people in the U.S. die from unintentional drowning. Of these, two are children aged 14 or younger.

Child drownings often happen quickly and quietly; in 70 percent of cases, one or both parents were nearby.

“People think drownings are noisy, that they’ll hear screams and shouts or see arms and legs thrashing,” says Sam Carolus, the program manager at Abbey’s Hope, a Minnesota-based foundation focused on safer pools and kids. “That’s not the case. They’re silent. Again and again we hear parents say, ‘I turned my back for a second.’ That’s all it takes. You can’t depend on your ears to know if someone is in trouble.”

Emmette Richardson knows this too well. In April 2014, his son drowned in their apartment pool. Richardson was there, but in the seconds it took to pull the boy from the deep end of the pool, enough time had passed that resuscitation efforts failed. Richardson, though, has a consistent reply for anyone who wants to avoid water altogether.

“Kids should not be kept away from water,” he says. “We live in Minnesota. We have to be comfortable near water. I moved to Minnesota from Liberia, where swimming isn’t a regular thing. I tell people, learn how to swim. Learn water safety.”

Monitoring beach water quality

Going to the beach is usually fun and relaxing, but waterborne illnesses can quickly turn fun into disaster.

To ensure that water is safe, Hennepin County Public Health samples and analyzes water at 31 public swimming beaches from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Check out the GIS map on for real-time public beach updates, including closures.

The county also samples and analyzes water at more than 500 public pools – year-round.

Prepare for a safe swimming experience

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends beach visitors follow these guidelines:

  • Wait 24 hours to swim after a heavy rainfall.
  • Shower after going to the beach.
  • Don't swallow water or swish it in your mouth.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before eating and after using the bathroom.
  • Don't swim if you're sick or have a weakened immune system.
  • Put tight-fitting rubber or plastic pants on children who are wearing diapers and those who are not toilet-trained.
  • Take your children for frequent bathroom breaks.
  • Don't feed ducks, geese, gulls, etc.
  • Pick up your trash.
  • If you boat, properly dispose of waste back on land.

Learn about beach water monitoring at