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I have bad news, and good news.

First the bad news.

Did you know that Los Angeles has over 43,000 pools? Someone counted and made an atlas. I might have mentioned that before. Did you also know that the South LA neighborhoods of Florence, Rancho Dominguez, and Watts had not a single backyard pool? (As of 2013).

According to the CDC: “Between 1999-2010, the fatal unintentional drowning rate for African Americans was significantly higher than that of whites across all ages. The disparity is widest among children 5-18 years old. The disparity is most pronounced in swimming pools; African American children 5-19 drown in swimming pools at rates 5.5 times higher than those of whites. This disparity is greatest among those 11-12 years where African Americans drown in swimming pools at rates 10 times those of whites.”[1]

It is impossible to ignore the connection between low income communities, neighborhoods populated by people of color, and the higher rates of drowning. One of the primary factors in the increased drowning rates for people of color has consistently been lack of access to lessons and facilities. “It is clear that pools are a pretty binary way of indicating those that ‘have’ and ‘have-not’ and we’ve now mapped how that plays out over the diverse economic landscape of L.A.,” said researcher Joseph K. Lee, one of the authors of the original pool atlas.

This news should infuriate us. According to the American Pediatric Society, all children should learn to swim. It’s right there in our mission statement: “Everyone should have access to the lifesaving skill of swimming.” Bottom line? Drowning is preventable!

Now for the good news.

According to a study commissioned by the USA Swimming foundation, to be published later this fall, the gap in swimming abilities between ethnicities is steadily falling since 2010, due in large part to increased access to swim lessons. (For more on this, read this excellent story in the New York Times published in August of 2017.)

The gap is still significant, and there is much work to do to overcome larger issues of generational fears, perceived cultural stereotypes, and pervasive economic divides. However, what we are doing matters. What you are doing matters. 


When you donate to One with Water, your dollars go directly towards providing swim lessons to those (of all race, creed, and color) who wouldn’t otherwise have access. You have a direct hand in decreasing a child’s risk, and increasing their confidence for life. Donate today. Your community needs you.


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