Water Competency: What It Is and Why It Is Crucial for Safety

what is water competency

Water competency is an essential concept in the realm of aquatic safety. It refers to a person’s ability to swim and effectively manage themselves in the water, encompassing not only swimming skills but also the knowledge and application of safe practices in aquatic environments. Developing and maintaining a high level of water competency is crucial to prevent accidents and drownings, ensuring that both children and adults can enjoy water activities with confidence and safety.

What Is Water Competency?

Water competency goes beyond just knowing how to swim. It includes a range of skills and knowledge that enable a person to respond appropriately in various aquatic situations. Key components of water competency include:

  1. Basic Swimming Skills: Being able to swim basic strokes such as freestyle, backstroke, and breaststroke, and to float and move in the water with ease.
  2. Survival Skills: Knowing how to float, turn in the water, and swim a reasonable distance to reach a safe place. It also involves the ability to perform basic rescue movements without endangering oneself.
  3. Aquatic Safety Knowledge: Understanding the risks associated with different aquatic environments (pools, lakes, oceans) and the preventive measures necessary to avoid accidents.
  4. Physical and Mental Condition: Maintaining good physical condition to withstand fatigue and stress in emergency situations, and having the mental capacity to stay calm and make quick, effective decisions.

Importance of Water Competency

Water competency is crucial for several reasons, all related to safety and accident prevention:

1. Drowning Prevention

Drowning is one of the leading causes of accidental death worldwide, especially among children. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 236,000 people drown each year. Water competency significantly reduces the risk of drowning by equipping individuals with the necessary skills to stay safe in the water and react appropriately in emergency situations.

2. Confidence and Enjoyment of Water Activities

Confidence in the water allows individuals to safely enjoy a wide range of water activities, from swimming and diving to water sports like surfing and kayaking. This confidence translates into a more enjoyable experience and reduces anxiety, which can be particularly beneficial for children.

3. Effective Emergency Response

People who are water competent are better prepared to respond in case of aquatic emergencies, not only for their own safety but also to help others. Knowing how to perform basic rescues and administer first aid can make the difference between life and death in critical situations.

4. Promotion of a Healthy Lifestyle

Water competency encourages an active and healthy lifestyle. Swimming and other aquatic activities are excellent forms of exercise that improve cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength, and flexibility. Additionally, these activities can be enjoyed throughout one’s life, contributing to overall better health and well-being.

How to Improve Water Competency

Improving water competency is an ongoing process that can begin at any age. Here are some ways to do it:

1. Enroll in Swimming Lessons

Taking swimming lessons with certified instructors is one of the best ways to develop aquatic skills. These classes are designed to teach swimming techniques, survival skills, and aquatic safety.

2. Regular Practice

Regular practice is key to maintaining and improving water competency. Swimming frequently and participating in water activities help reinforce learned skills and build confidence in the water.

3. Participate in Aquatic Safety Programs

Many community programs offer aquatic safety courses that include training in first aid, CPR, and water rescue. These programs are excellent for acquiring additional knowledge and skills that can be crucial in emergency situations.

4. Continuous Education

Staying informed about best practices and updates in aquatic safety is essential. Reading articles, watching instructional videos, and participating in seminars on water safety can help stay up-to-date and improve water competency.


Water competency is a vital component of aquatic safety. Developing and maintaining these skills not only prevents accidents and drownings but also allows for more confident and safe enjoyment of water activities. Investing in water competency, through education and continuous practice, is an investment in the safety and well-being of oneself and loved ones.

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