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"Ask A Trooper" answers question about spray from farm irrigation systems

by Bonnie Amistadi

ASK A TROOPER by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

Question: I have wanted to ask this question for some time now, and after talking to others about it, it's time to ask. While driving through the country side, on more than one occasion, Ive been blasted with water coming from the water cannon on the end of field irrigators. I ride a motorcycle and can't imagine what would happen if I got hit with one of those water cannons while on my bike. What is the law regarding shooting the water from an irrigator onto or across a public road, and what can we as drivers do about it? This could be a very dangerous situation if the right circumstances existed. I hope you publish the answer as there are many looking for the answer.

Answer: Good question as its been a year since I received any inquires on this subject and here we are in a dry part of the season again.

I am unable to locate any law or statute that specifically states that it is illegal for an irrigation system to spray water on a highway; however, I did find this in Minnesota State Statute 160.2715 on whats considered a violation:

(1) obstruct any highway or deposit snow or ice thereon;

(2) plow or perform any other detrimental operation within the road right-of-way

Violation of this statute is a misdemeanor. It is my opinion that if enough water was deposited onto the highway, this statute may apply. Obstruct any highway does not only mean to block but to hinder from passage and impede. As for detrimental meaning obviously harmful, if theres enough standing water on a roadway for a vehicle to hydroplane and cause a crash - this too could be an issue.

Ive grown up and lived my entire life in rural Minnesota. Ive traveled hundreds of thousands of miles and been dowsed several times by the overspray of an irrigator and never felt it was an issue since its always been a light mist. But for some reason, if a person did, I would encourage them to report this roadway safety issue as quickly as possible so the proper road authority can address it in a timely manner.

In the meantime, use some common sense. Scan the road and obey the speed limit. Search aggressively ahead, to the sides and behind you to help avoid potential hazards even before they arise. How assertively you search, and how much time and space you create, can eliminate or reduce some of the potential issues. Focus on finding potential escape routes, and be prepared to slow down or stop, depending on the circumstance.

A portion of state statutes were used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes. If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Trp. Jesse Grabow Minnesota State Patrol at 1000 Highway 10 West, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501-2205. (You can follow him on Twitter @MSPPIO_NW or reach him at, jesse.grabow@state.mn.us ).