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The warning was issued by the Grant County Sheriff's Office, but it really applies to any area that has irrigation canals.

  GCSO issues warning reminder to not swim in canals

This week the GCSO put out a statement that is echoed by irrigation districts and other law enforcement in our region, to stay out of canals.

Most irrigation systems are filling or have just about finished filling their main feeder canals, and soon water will be flowing to consumers.

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However, over the last few years, most counties in Eastern WA have seen a steady increase in drownings involving swimmers in these often fast-moving waters.

There have been reports in the Grant County-Moses Lake area of people actually setting up tents and shades alongside canals, and turning them into recreation areas. Not only are these people endangering themselves by swimming in the water, but also often end up blocking farm access roads.

  No irrigation canal is safe to be swimming in, but especially the larger feeder canals, which are often 12-15 feet across or wider. They usually have fairly steep sides, which get slippery and the water moves a lot faster than people think.  They're deep enough that if someone slips or gets pulled under by the current, they have nothing to grab onto and pull themselves out.

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 2021 was especially a bad year, two people died in Grant County in less than 24 hours after drowning in canals, and several others died in 2022, and 2023 in other areas in our region, also canal-related.

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Gallery Credit: Katelyn Leboff