MONTREAL -- There have already been 47 drownings this year in Quebec. The government announced it is investing $2.5 million for basic swimming lessons in a program called "Swim to Survive."

"The funding goes three years, so ti's going to be done with the schools, so it's going to start in September," said Quebec minister responsible for sports Isabelle Charest.

The goal is to teach basic water safety to elementary and high school students.

"We ask them to swim two lengths of the regular pool - 25 metres - and this is for the elementary levels, and for the high school level, it will be with clothing," said Raynald Hawkins of the Quebec Lifesaving Society.

They are skills that can save lives, espeically if someone falls into the water accidentally.

"Today 45 per cent of our children, if they fall into deep water unexpectedly, they could drown," said former Olympic gold medalist Sylvie Bernier.

Vacationing at home combined with the extremely hot weather at times may account for the high number of drownings, the Lifesaving Society says. Swim instructors say they can be avoided if the right skills are learned.

In the next three years, the program hopes to teach 10s of thousands of children how to swim.