Each year, as the weather turns hot, Utahns head for lakes, beaches, pools, and other water to swim, boat, splash, and fish. And each year, about 20 of them drown.

The death of five persons - including two toddlers - in several drowning accidents last week are a tragic reminder of how dangerous the usually peaceful-looking water can be for the unsuspecting and unwary.Water should always be approached as a hazard, a potential source of trouble. And the fact that someone can swim is no guarantee of anything. In fact, it can be a drawback by causing a person to be over-confident. One of the victims who drowned last week was a man known as a "strong swimmer."

The Utah Safety Council has some basic tips that everyone should keep in mind: (1) Don't swim, boat, fish, or even wade alone; (2) always check the depth of the water and look for hazards; (3) all children and boaters should be sure to wear life jackets; (4) alcohol and boating don't mix; (5) avoid swift water; (6) don't let children near water without an adult and without life jackets; (7) if boating, head for shore when it looks stormy.

The latter point is crucial. Two of last week's deaths came as a result of winds whipping Utah Lake into waves that capsized a boat. The lake is relatively shallow, although it has deep holes, but that very shallowness allows the wind to lash the water into dangerous waves. Five people drowned in the lake last year in such circumstances.

Most people who drown don't even mean to get wet. They fall out of boats, off docks or piers, slip on the bank of a stream or canal, or get dumped by a capsizing boat.

Don't take the water for granted. It is not man's natural element. Approach it cautiously, and be prepared for accidents or spills. Don't let what should be a happy, fun-filled outing turn into a tragedy.