Despite the fact that New Mexico is a desert state, the drowning rate (4.3) is 40% higher than that nationally (3.0). More than half of those who drown are younger than 25 years, toddlers and adolescents being at greater risk than other age groups. In an epidemiologic study of a six-year period, male drowning victims outnumbered female and American Indian and Hispanic victims outnumbered whites. Other major risk factors were epilepsy, mental retardation and alcohol abuse. In most drownings in the under-25 age group, the victim was involved in recreation near the water or swimming, although many were partially or fully clothed. Most drownings occurred in lakes, ditches or rivers. Because New Mexico is not a water-oriented state, public awareness of drowning hazards needs to be increased and more intensive preventive efforts instituted.