AUSTIN (KXAN) — Families eager to hit pools and lakes this Memorial Day weekend will see a new push for water safety. In an effort to reduce the drowning rate in Central Texas, 18 billboards have been placed near area lakes warning about drowning risks.

In addition to the billboards, life jacket loaner-stations are going up by the water.

“You can go to the lake and borrow a U.S. Coast Guard life jacket for all sizes — infant, child and adult, said Alissa Magrum, executive director of Colin’s Hope, a water safety awareness group formed in 2008 after the drowning of 4-year-old Colin Holst.

Magrum is part of the Central Texas Drowning Prevention Action Team, which was spearheaded by the ZAC Foundation, a national swim safety group.

“We know there is an increased risk of drownings this summer,” said the foundation’s executive director Megan Ferraro.

While the pandemic may have kept many families away from recreational pools and lakes, the return to normalcy is one of caution.

“We have learned from our partners throughout the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance reporting a 400 percent increase in home pool sales,” Ferraro said.

The Drowning Prevention Action Team was created in response to the 2019 spike in Central Texas child drownings. The billboards — strategically placed on highways in downtown Austin and out by Lake Travis — serve to remind people about the importance of water safety and drowning prevention at pools, lakes and in the bathtub.

The billboards were made possible through a partnership with Reagan Outdoor Advertising. The new loaner life jacket stations are located at:

  • Bob Wentz Park at Windy Point
  • Hamilton Pool Preserve
  • Lake Georgetown
  • Lakeway City Park
  • Mansfield Dam Park

Each device is free to use as long as the swimmer returns it.