Drowning in Virginia

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Virginians face a significant fatality burden related to aquatic venue-related drownings. A total of 2,263 potential life years were lost before the age of 75 due to drowning (Office of Family Health Services).

From 2016 to 2020, 428 people fatally drowned in Virginia.

13.6% of those drownings occurred in pools.

Of those who drowned, 48% were age 19 and younger and 29.3% were under the age of five (Office of the Chief Medical Examiner).

The cost of drowning.

Fatal drowning is not the only burden faced by Virginians. The cost related to hospital and treatment and time for non-fatal drowning can be devastating to families. There were a total of 139 inpatient hospitalizations for non-fatal drownings, 14% of which could be identified definitively as pool related.

Between 2016 to 2020, 2,758 visits were made to Virginia emergency room and urgent care facilities for pool related drownings, submersion, and other injuries (not including visits associated with bathtubs or natural waters). Most visits (71%) occurred among children aged 0-17, with the highest incidence being among children 0-4 years old (Office of Epidemiology, 2022).

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Nationwide, drowning is one of the top ten causes of unintentional injury death for all age categories up to age 44. In 2020, drowning was the number one cause of unintentional injury death for children aged one to four years old (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022).

For children under the age of 15, the Consumer Product Safety Commission found that from 2018 to 2020 there were an estimated 6,200 pool or spa-related hospital emergency department visits for non-fatal drowning injuries each year.

Learn more about drowning:

For Drowning Prevention Information, please visit VDH's Drowning Prevention webpage.


  • Office of Family Health Services. (n.d.). Virginia Health Information inpatient hospitalization data. (O. o. Management, Compiler).
  • Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. (2019). Fatal Child Drownings in Virginia, 2014-2016. Virginia Department of Health. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. (n.d.). Virginia Medical Examiner Data System. Virginia Department of Health.
  • Office of Epidemiology. (2022). Virginia ESSENCE Syndromic Surveillance Data. Virginia Department of Health.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, February 24). The Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC): An All-inclusive Model Public Swimming Pool and Spa Code. From Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/mahc/index.html
  • Office of Environmental Health Services (OEHS). (2023). Agency Review and Recommendation to Address Illness, Injury, and Death Prevention at Public Aquatic Facilities: https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/environmental-health/environmental-health-services/swim-healthy/vdh-public-aquatic-facility-policy-analysis/