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The Dangers of Irrigation Canals 1/29/2014

Every year in Idaho, more than a half dozen children and adults drown in irrigation canals. As Idaho population increases, so does the number of drownings. It is a sad fact that more children drown in canals every year in Idaho than in any other body of water.

Many Idahoans, newcomers and life-long residents alike, really don't understand the danger posed by an irrigation canal. To some, it’s just a small creek running past their property. There are thousands of miles of irrigation canals in Idaho. Canals are deeper and water flows swifter than most people think. The average irrigation canal depth is 7 - 10 feet deep. Typical canal flows are 520 cubic feet per second, which equates to more than 233,000 gallons a minute.

Irrigation District officials want Idaho residents to know irrigation canals are dangerous.

Not only do irrigation canals run very fast and cold, canal banks are also nearly vertical, making it almost impossible to get out should you fall in. A person who falls in a canal has to cope with the steep, nearly vertical banks; a fast, deep flow of water; and no shallow spots. That combination of factors spells certain tragedy.

What many people also may not know is that canals are private property. They are not public thoroughfares. If you go on the irrigation canal property without permission, it is trespassing and against the law. Roads alongside canal banks are not public roads. The roads are private easements use to patrol and maintain irrigation canals. Trespassers should be reported to your local police department.

The only safe irrigation canal, is the one you stay away from.