Schools soon will be letting out for the summer, and it’s no coincidence that this month has been designated Water Safety Month.
Our temperatures in the next few months will reach well above 100 degrees. With more than 3,000 miles of open canals and drains carrying water to supply our cities, industries and fields with that most essential of nature’s bounty, that liquid gold long has been enticing to young and old alike seeking to cool off. Because of the inherent dangers of underwater vegetation and strong currents lurking beneath the seemingly calm surfaces in those canals, which can render helpless even the most accomplished of swimmers, the Imperial Irrigation District board once again is reaching out to the county’s estimated 25,000 schoolchildren with its water safety campaign.
Through June 12, the IID is taking its annual Dippy Duck program into the schools with the theme, “Be a Winner!
Stay Away from Canals.” And, because the 2012 London Olympics — with the world’s top swimmers and divers competing — begin in July, the IID’s challenge for the county’s children is to learn to swim and swim only in places where there is a lifeguard or an adult present, never in canals.
Many of our cities have public swimming pools and lessons are offered at a reasonable cost through city recreation departments. The pools are open for public swimming, most often in the afternoons when the urge to cool off is at its highest, although pool times vary. Many cities also sponsor summer recreation swim teams, where hundreds of local children — whether accomplished swimmers or beginners — have the opportunity to compete in their own age groups and at their own levels of experience.
Many may not be aware, or choose to ignore, that it is illegal to enter the district’s canals, with penalties including imprisonment and fines. The ultimate penalty, though, has nothing to do with the laws of humans but with the law of nature.
Dippy’s message debuted in May 1966 and was based on a real duck who survived a trip through a power-plant turbine on the All-American Canal, although a water safety campaign had begun in 1959, according to the IID Web site.
Parents and grandparents raised in the Imperial Valley likely well remember Dippy’s stern warnings from their own grade-school days. Dippy’s appearance has undergone transition a few times, but his message carries the same punch.
We hope our kids and their caregivers continue to take this message to heart, and that each takes away from it a healthy respect for our canals.
THE ISSUE: This is Water Safety Month.
WE SAY: We join the IID in urging children to stay safe, learn to swim and stay out of canals.
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