IDAHO FALLS, Idaho - Idaho ranks fourth in the nation in drowning deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Idaho Irrigation District said local canals are where a lot of these drownings happen.
The New Sweden Irrigation District owns and oversees nearly 130 miles of canals throughout Idaho Falls. Director Louis Thiel said right now his concern is kids swimming in them.
"We always worry about the drowning factor because the water is cold, so it's going to be a shock. There's a lot things people don't realize, like there's a lot of rocks and debris sometimes in the bottom of those canals and broken bottles," he said.
He showed me a few canals today and pointed out some of the hazards like a vortex in a middle of a canal and a 14-foot drop.
Another concern is the bacterias in the canals.
"We have different pathogens that can get into canals from farm animals and different animals from the wild. Sometimes it's more concentrated in canals because it's passing through dairy pastures and farms," said epidemiologist Mike Taylor, who works for the Eastern Idaho Public Health District.
He said people shouldn't swallow canal water because it could have E. coli or salmonella.
"Geese or any kind of waterfowl can shed that parasite into their stool and if you ingest that water, you can be infected by that parasite," he said.
Taylor said contaminated water could make you sick for one to 10 days. If you're feeling symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration, see your doctor.
Thiel said kids are trespassing when they swim in canals. The only people allowed are the canal company and the property owners.