With summer ramping up just as much of Minnesota is dealing with high water, it's as good a time as any to remember how to stay safe in the water — especially because drownings have increased both nationally and in the state in recent years.

Just Wednesday, a 27-year-old man drowned in the St. Croix River near the beach in Afton State Park, according to the Washington County Sheriff's Office.

If you think you'll be in or around water over the July 4th holiday weekend and beyond, here's what to know about water safety.

Drownings have increased

From 2010 to 2019, Minnesota averaged about 36 non-boating drownings a year, according to data from the Department of Natural Resources. In the four years since, however, the annual average has jumped to 45.

Fifty-three drownings were recorded in 2021 alone, the highest annual number since 2001, according to DNR data.

The country also saw a hike in drownings starting in 2020. Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the United States registered about 500 more drownings than 2019 each year from 2020 through 2022.

Lisa Dugan, boat and water safety outreach coordinator for the DNR, said the statewide increase is likely the result of more people spending time in the water. People had more free time during the pandemic, they had less access to swimming lessons and there were fewer lifeguards on duty.

"Beaches were definitely busy during those summers," she said.

As of June 30, the DNR reported 13 non-boat drownings in Minnesota so far this year, a number more comparable to pre-pandemic years.

Drownings are silent, not loud and splashy

Drownings can happen within seconds and often unfold silently, according to the CDC. When someone is struggling in the water, their hands are busy trying to keep their head above water, Dugan said. You might be able to see just the tip of their nose and mouth at the surface.

"It's really important for people to understand that downing can look different than people think that it does," Dugan said.

Kids need supervision and life jackets

Dugan and other safety advocates emphasize that young children need to be supervised by a distraction-free adult.

"Even if there is a lifeguard on duty, there should always be a responsible adult who has their eyes on the water at all times," Dugan said.

And it's the law in Minnesota for children under age 10 on a boat to wear to wear a life jacket. Dugan and others stress that floaties — inflated swimming aids — aren't enough to keep a child safe. They can easily slip off accidentally, be removed by children themselves and are not U.S. Coast Guard-approved flotation devices.

Adults need to be careful, too

The life jacket requirement may not extend to adults, but Dugan said she sees examples every year of adults jumping off boats and not resurfacing. She warns people not to rely solely on their swimming ability.

"If you're jumping off a boat, if you're in water over your head, throw on a life jacket," she said.

It also helps to swim with a buddy, stay in designated swimming areas and to avoid alcohol before going into the water, according to Dugan and the Red Cross. Alcohol is a typical factor in drownings in Minnesota, especially those occurring around July 4.

Be wary of rip currents and high water

Following intense rainfall in June, Minnesota is seeing high water levels. That means faster currents.

"Maybe choose a different location until that water level recedes a bit," Dugan said.

Rip currents are powerful, narrow currents that flow away from shore, posing a danger to swimmers. They occur on beaches with breaking waves, such as Lake Superior.

If caught in a rip current, don't swim against it in the direction of the shore, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration advises. Instead, you can either relax — rip currents do not pull you under the water — or swim out of the current by moving parallel to the shoreline, according to officials. If you can't escape, float or tread water.

Free swimming lessons

The YMCA of the North, the city of St. Paul and Hennepin County are among the many places that offer free swimming opportunities to children.