Health and Human Services Agency

Margaret Williams

(530) 642-7164

Rivers and lakes are higher than normal and pose great risk


(Placerville, CA) – As the weather warms up and more families head to rivers, lakes and swimming pools, El Dorado County Public Health Officer, Dr. Nancy Williams, is advising residents to take extra precautions. "No one wants to lose a loved one to drowning," said Dr. Williams. "Fortunately, drowning incidents are preventable, and taking simple actions can absolutely save lives." According to Dr. Williams, El Dorado County officials are especially concerned about getting the word out this year on water safety due to higher-than-normal water levels on local rivers and lakes, which can be very dangerous.


"Winter brought remarkable snowfall to the Sierra Nevada, and warm temperatures are quickly melting that snow, sending high volumes of very cold, fast-moving water down El Dorado County's rivers," said Dr. Williams. "River and lake-related deaths typically increase in numbers during high-water years."


"Hot weather will be here soon, increasing the temptation to escape to rivers and lakes to cool off. However, recreating in these bodies of water poses a greater risk than usual this year. Uneven or slippery footing, waves, and forceful waterflow can result in people falling into water, exposing them to extreme cold, and possibly sweeping them away. Suddenly falling into very cold water can cause shock, take one's breath away, and quickly lead to drowning, even for good swimmers," explained Williams.    


These dangers aren't limited to rivers. Lake Tahoe and other mountain lakes can be very cold, too. Although swimming in shallow water near shorelines is generally safe for people who can swim, falling off a boat into the deep cold water can quickly lead to hypothermia, even when a person is wearing a personal floatation device. "These risks are real, both for adults and for children," said Dr. Williams.


Dr. Williams emphasized the importance of parents and youth being especially cautious this year to prevent drowning deaths of children. El Dorado County has a child death review team that reviews the deaths of children that occur in the county and deaths where children from El Dorado County died outside of the county. Drowning deaths are included in those reviews. Over the past ten years (2013-2022), a total of nine child drowning incidents occurred in El Dorado County, and all of them involved a natural body of water such as a river or lake.


In addition to being careful around natural bodies of water, Dr. Williams noted that precautions should be taken with children near swimming pools. "Child drownings are often associated with unfenced swimming pools and lack of adult supervision," said Dr. Williams. "Any drowning death is tragic and that's why we want to remind everyone to be especially careful this year."


General water safety tips include the following:

  • Keep a safe distance from fast-moving or high-volume rivers.
  • Avoid swimming or wading in rivers, streams, or creeks until the water levels recede and conditions improve.
  • Always wear appropriate safety gear, such as life jackets, when engaging in water-related activities.
  • Know how to get back onto your watercraft if you fall off.
  • Enjoy water sports with other people, not while alone.
  • Consult weather and boating forecasts for wind and wave conditions before boating on lakes. Do not go out if there is a small-craft warning.
  • Avoid recreating in and around water after consuming alcohol or prescription or nonprescription drugs.
  • If you have a swimming pool, install perimeter fencing.
  • Keep a close eye on children and pets near waterways and pools to ensure their safety.
  • Teach children to swim while they are young and constantly supervise any children around water until they are competent swimmers.
  • Do not leave even shallow amounts of water or liquid in bathtubs or containers like buckets that very young children could fall in and not be able to get out of.


For more information:

National Center for Cold Water Safety (

El Dorado County River Education and Safety (

California Division of Boating & Waterways / Boating and water safety, drowning statistics (

California Division of Boating & Waterways / Cold water boating safety tips (


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