MERIDIAN -- Irrigation expert Gregg Curtiss has watched ice-cold water fill Treasure Valley canals for the past 20 years.

As the District Water Manager for the Nampa and Meridian Irrigation District, his crews are responsible for over 500 miles of canals and drainage ditches that supply life-giving flows to farmers in the Treasure Valley.

He also knows how fast these dangerous waterways can take life away.

They're deep, they flow very fast; this water is ice cold, Curtiss says. It's coming off the bottom of Lucky Peak Reservoir right now.

For Curtiss, canal safety is a major issue when it comes to springtime irrigation flows. He says crews are hard at work picking debris out of the canals, and expect most to fill within the next two weeks.

This is the push, or the head of the water that's just coming down the canal, Curtiss says, while explaining a gnarly clog of brush and garbage flowing down the Ridenbaugh Canal in Meridian. As you can see, it's picking up tumbleweeds and various material that have laid in the canal all winter long.

The number one precaution Curtiss recommends for parents and homeowners that live near canals take is to get educated. He says kids and adults should never treat the waterways as play areas.

Rescuers at the Meridian Fire Department agree.

Firefighter Kristian Forbey says parents should take time to talk to their kids about canal safety, and remember the following steps if anybody does fall in:


  • Call 911 right away if someone falls into a canal
  • If the victim is close, you can try to reach for them.
  • Use a stick, a rake, or other long pole
  • If the victim is far away, try a rope or a garden hose, or something that floats

Forbey says you should never try to rescue someone yourself because the swift, cold water in these canals can be challenging even for the best swimmers.

That can cause problems for us later and complicate our rescue if we have multiple victims, because we don't know which ones are associated with which, or how many are there.

If you want more information about irrigation canals in your area, click here.

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