Irrigation season brings potential for drowning

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) - With the start of irrigation season comes a warning for parents. The Nampa and Meridian Irrigation District says when the canals are full, there's a "sharply increased drowning risk."

Luella Powell lives near the Ridenbaugh Canal, where workers will start diverting water from the Boise River at 3 a.m. Monday. She says it's not a good place to play.

"Anything can happen in a canal," Powell said. "(You could) be swept away, go underneath a bridge, get caught underneath a bridge."

Jerry Smith of Meridian said children can drown if parents aren't careful.

"It doesn't take long," Smith said. "Turn your back for just a second, and they can be in the canal."

The irrigation district says it will take about two weeks for the 500 miles of canals to fill completely. The water may look calm, but it will soon be deep, very cold and moving fast.

Water managers say if children do fall in, it's almost impossible for them to get out, even if they can swim.

Powell said there are no lifeguards to save a kid who falls in.

"If parents and kids would just learn to stay out of the canal and swim where they're supposed to, the drownings wouldn't happen," she said.

Along with being potentially deadly, the canals are also private property. Playing in one or along its banks is considered trespassing.

The irrigation district produces ads with the stark warning: "Children die in irrigation canals. Don't let yours be one of them."