‘Do not drink canal water:’ Safety tips from K.I.D. as irrigation season is nearing

KENNEWICK, Wash. — April 1 marks the first official day of irrigation season for Kennewick. The Kennewick Irrigation District (KID) is working to make sure the canals are prepped as quickly as possible, but it may take a few weeks.

“We expect to have everybody turned on by the end of April,” said Matthew Burglund, Public Relations Coordinator for KID. “It can take several weeks for us to fill, flush, and charge the canal system.”

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That’s because KID is the largest canal system in the area. As irrigation season nears, KID wants to remind the public of some safety measures.

Chemicals, microbials, and contaminants, oh my!

Water that runs through the canals is sourced from the nearby Yakima River. The water is raw, so it has many microbials and containments in it.

It’s also treated with several chemicals by KID, making it unsafe for human or animal consumption.

“Please do not drink the canal water,” Burglund said. “We treat our canals throughout the entire year, and those chemicals can cause harm if you were to ingest those.”

Canals are not for play — stay away!

While the water in canals may not look dangerous, it can be rather deceptive.

The water is several feet deep, coming up to waist depth on most people. But the water is also dark, meaning you can’t see the bottom, or what’s in the water.

Canal water also moves at a fast rate, meaning that if you’re in the water, you can’t see what’s coming at you.

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While KID works to make sure the canals are clear of debris and tumbleweeds, the Tri-Cites are known for blustery days. You could end up being in a tangle of unknown objects under fast-moving water.

“As the Tri-Cities continues to grow, we’re finding more homes are building next our canals,” Burglund said. “If you happen to be near one, we ask that you take the necessary precautions.”

If you see someone in a canal, call 9-1-1

Do not go after someone if you see them in a canal. The sides of the canal can have algae build-up, which can make them slippery. That causes people to fall in after the other person, making two people stuck in the canal.

The best thing you can do is to call 9-1-1.

“Drowning is the second leading cause of death among children,” Burglund said. “If you live near a canal, or you’re walking by a canal, just make sure you’re keeping an eye on children. They have a huge curiosity and they might want to throw rocks, but it’s very easy to fall and slip right into [the canal].”

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