Did you know that drowning fatality rates are higher in Southern and western states than in other regions of the United States? Rural areas have higher death rates than urban or suburban areas, in part due to decreased access to emergency medical care.

Fact taken from National “Safe Kids” Campaign

Acres of orchards, wheat and vegetables conceal more drowning hazards than you may think. Irrigation systems pump, transport and store large amounts of water to irrigate crops. Children who live in agricultural areas or work on farms are also at especially high risk of drowning If water hazards are present. Canals pose as a HUGE drowning hazard in Fresno County. If you must be near them, be aware of the following conditions that could prove hazardous.

  • Canals contain water that is quickly moving. Fast-moving water in a narrow channel can knock a person off their feet. Even water that is only a foot deep, if it is moving fast enough, would cause you to lose your balance and be carried away.
  • Debris (trash and garbage) and dangerous things can be found in canals.
  • Dry canals are not safe because there is no way to know when water may be released and you may be trapped by a surge of water.
  • Canals can have deep water. If you cannot swim or if you are hurt, falling into deep water could prove fatal. In addition to swift currents, irrigation canals may have undertows and turbulence that could drag even a strong swimmer under water.
  • Ladder rungs on the side of canals are used by workers when cleaning and repairing canals. Ladders are not there to encourage swimming.
  • Canals have steep slopes and slippery walls. The concrete or earthen sides of ditches and canals are sometimes steep and possibly slippery, making them difficult to climb out.
  • Canals have grates, culverts, spillways and in-water energy dissipation devices. If a person were to fall into a water-filled ditch or canal, additional hazards include becoming caught up in or striking an object or structure. This may cause someone to become submerged and/or lose consciousness.
  • Muddy or murky water makes it hard to see a person.
  • The water’s helical motion makes it difficult to swim to safety.
  • Canal temperature is about 55 degrees and can cause hypothermia.
  • Hypothermia is a condition which causes a person’s body temperature to abnormally drop, causing stiffness, so that a person cannot move or swim to safety.
  • Even though canal water may look calm and slow-running, its undercurrent may be very fast.

Preventing Canal-related Accidents

  • There is no substitute for the supervision of a responsible adult.
  • If there is a canal near by, be sure there are barriers or fences between your family and the canal.
  • Always keep children in your direct line-of-sight – always.

Facts and statistics were taken from the Department of Labor and Industries.