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Boise-area irrigation districts deal with trash dumped in canals

Old furniture, TVs and other trash go into water canals.

By Brad Carlson

Capital Press

Published on July 12, 2018 8:39AM

Mark Zirschky, Pioneer Irrigation District water superintendent, clears trash and debris from a weed rack on a small canal in Canyon County, Idaho.

Pioneer Irrigation District

Mark Zirschky, Pioneer Irrigation District water superintendent, clears trash and debris from a weed rack on a small canal in Canyon County, Idaho.

Irrigation system operators in the greater Boise area say their canals are increasingly being used as trash dumps, costing farmers and others money to clear it out.

The Treasure Valley Water Users Association reports that more unwanted — and illegal — materials are being dumped in canals and ditches. Landscape waste, trash, old furniture and appliances, and even car parts have been retrieved from parts of the area’s 1,500-mile system of canals, laterals and ditches.

“It is a serious problem for our irrigation delivery folks every summer, and it has only gotten worse with the strong residential and commercial growth we are experiencing,” association executive director Roger Batt said in a release.

Idaho law prohibits dumping into canals and ditches any material that can interfere with delivering water, he said.

Dumping also appears to be more common since landfills tightened their rules about what can be discarded, said Mark Zirschky, water superintendent with Pioneer Irrigation District in Caldwell, Idaho.

“We find household trash, grass clippings, tree limbs, tires, batteries and quite a few old televisions,” Zirschky said. “When water was coming in this year, we found a pile of trash that consisted of TVs, mattresses, coffee tables and a recliner. It would’ve been a real mess had the ditch rider not made an additional trip, ahead of the water being turned on, and cleared it all.”

Building materials also have been found, said Mack Myers, district manager at Boise-based Settlers Irrigation District. Settlers, which serves many growing residential neighborhoods, is experiencing a growing problem with unlawful dumping in its canals, which can seem like an out-of-sight, out-of-mind place to get rid of litter, he said.

Where homes back up to canals, district employees have seen dirt and rock on its right of way, Myers said in an interview. Some landscapers, in completing finish work before grass is planted or sod installed, toss the unwanted material over the homeowner’s fence, he said. Fall and spring cleanup seasons also can increase debris volume.

Nampa & Meridian Irrigation District, the Treasure Valley’s largest, spends about $500 per year just hauling off old tires, water superintendent Greg Curtis said. He also sees more televisions, computer monitors and pet waste lately.

As for lawn and garden waste, it can include pesticides the water transports to other users, he said.

In an interview, Curtis said the district sees at least one-third more trash and debris in its systems than it saw 20 years ago.

Batt said trash and debris threaten equipment, plugging pumps connected to pressurized irrigation systems that serve residential areas. Ditch riders are spending more time dealing with trash, he said.


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