Escalante's water supply, meager even in the best of times, likely will be further restricted as Utah enters its fifth straight summer of drought.
The Garfield County community's main source, the Wide Hollow Reservoir, is shrinking. Sediment carried by the Escalante River is filling the basin, and the deposits have cut the reservoir's capacity in half.The drought means more than the potential for thirsty Escalante residents - it has reduced the already slim supply of water available to irrigate 2,700 acres of farmland in the area.
Dredging does not alleviate the problem and is too expensive. So Es-calante and Garfield County officials have decided to raise the height of the dam 9 feet and build a structure upstream to diminish the sediment flow into the reservoir.
But the estimated $1.5 million price tag is money that the city, county and the irrigation company that originally built the reservoir don't have. And "water is now our critical lifeblood," said County Commissioner Louise Liston.
She said the state Board of Water Resources will be approached for a loan to finance the work, but a preliminary engineering study of the proposal's feasibility is required before the application can be filed.