In August of 2017, the tragic drowning of an 18-month-old Nampa boy spurred local interest in the dangers of irrigation canals. Following the toddler's death, CBS2 Idaho News reported Idaho had "the second-highest rate of canal deaths for children in the nation." The Centers for Disease Control also reports drowning caused by a lack of  parental supervision is the "second leading cause of accidental death for all kids up to age 14" across the country. Five years later, CBS2 reports the Gem State's child irrigation fatality rates remain the same among children aged 1 to 5.

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The alarming prevalence of minor mortalities considered preventable by many highlights a critical need for canal education. According to the Bureau of Reclamation's Research and Development Office, public safety risks posed by bodies of water conveyance increase in proximity to urban areas. The expansion of residential communities near irrigation creeks "has resulted in approximately 1,000 miles of Reclamation canals in urbanized areas." It's a progression authorities contend is responsible for making canals look like recreational play and swim areas as opposed to the potential death traps they are.

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For as long as Idaho's high desert climate necessitates the use of irrigation channels, they remain a consistent threat to public safety. In an effort to reduce the volume of canal deaths and accidents, the IWUA  stresses four key safety points.

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1 || Keep out of canals, ditches, laterals, and drains—especially in wet conditions!

  • Why? Because canals were not designed with recreational play in mind. Their intended purpose is delivering water from Idaho's bodies of water to farmers and  ranchers.

2 || Do not attempt to retrieve items from canals, ditches, laterals or drains!

  • Why? Attempts to recover personal items can lead to harmful or potentially deadly situations. It's not worth your life.

3 || DO NOT LEAVE CHILDREN UNATTENDED NEAR CANALS, DITCHES, LATERA—EVER.

  • Why? A canal less than two feet deep has the power to knock a grown adult off his or her feet and carry them away. Small children require supervision near bodies of water at all times.

4 || All irrigation channels are private property. Entering canals, ditches, laterals, and drains is a form of trespassing land and waterway owners take very seriously in Idaho.

KEEP READING FOR ADDITIONAL TIPS & RESOURCES  


For additional safety tips explore the following state and community resources:

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