Local officials remind us to avoid swimming in canals
IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI) - The weather is continually warming up, with the afternoon heat bringing the temptation for many to cool off in the water. Local officials are encouraging the idea but are asking for caution, especially where it applies to the many irrigation waterways or canals all throughout the region.
"We do have a robust canal system here in eastern Idaho that brings all the irrigation water to the fields. And so that is a tempting thing for families and kids to see these waterways throughout our state. But it's the most dangerous waterway in the state of Idaho," Idaho Falls Fire Department Division Chief Fire Marshal Scott Grimmett said.
Chief Grimmett said out of all of the waterways in the region between lakes, rivers, streams and creeks, nothing compares to the hidden dangers that are found in our region's Canals.
"Canals are the ones that we have the most fatalities for children. And so that's why we want to talk about it and promote canal safety," Chief Grimmett said.
Canals, much like a river, have a current and an undercurrent. That can present unknown challenges within the water for someone who enters into the canal for a brief dip. They are also smaller than a river meaning people can misjudge their own abilities as a canal can lure someone into a false sense of security and go in for a swim.
"The water's moving pretty quickly, sometimes 3 to 5 miles an hour. So sometimes it's challenging to stand up. And also, the canal banks are super steep, so they're hard to get out of. So if you do get in trouble, it's hard to stand up. It's hard to get out, climb out of the bank, and the river just can move you downstream pretty quickly, that 3 to 5 miles an hour if you're in trouble, can move you downstream, a quarter of a mile in a couple of minutes," Chief Grimmett said.
The biggest tip Chief Grimmett has for swimming in a canal? Is DON'T.
"Go to recreation in water and in the public pools and try to use a safer environment...We'd also encourage the use of life jackets, to be with responsible adults," Chief Grimmett said.
Chief Grimmett also adds any potential canal swimmer may not see hidden dangers within the water such as dead animals or downed tree limbs.
Due to the high levels of snowpack and snow runoff, Chief Grimmett reminds us the water can be colder than we expect lowering the ability we could have to swim and stay afloat in the water. But since many of the canals help farmers many are on private property.
"The roads that service the canal system by the irrigation districts are often private property. So there are some potential legal challenges to using those water systems for recreation," Chief Grimmett said.
For more safety tips on canals, you can find them here at the Bureau of Reclamation website.