The Bureau of Land Management has reached the halfway point in its program to create watering holes for desert bighorn sheep in the area around the confluence of the Colorado and Green rivers.

"We now have our fifth in place," Joe Cresto, a BLM big game biologist, said Monday. "And we'd like to put in another four or so."With help from the Canyonlands Wildlife Federation, a Moab wildlife group, and financial assistance from the North American Wild Sheep Foundation, the latest water catchment was sent by helicopter into Mineral Canyon.

The containers, made of fiberglass, look something like two huge saucers with one flipped over and set atop the other. They can hold up to 1,000 gallons of water from rainfall or snow.

"The top protects the catchment from evaporation," Cresto said, and the small storage reservoir feeds its supply into a drinking basin. The flow is controlled by a float valve.

"Water catchments are an effective way to improve wildlife habitat in areas where water is lacking," he said. "The main goal is to improve desert bighorn lamb survival."

But the catchments also will supply needed water to such upland game birds as chukar partridge and to raptors such as peregrine falcons and bald eagles, Cresto said.

The main problem is moving the equipment into an area where the wild sheep would graze. The desert bighorns live in the most remote portions of southeastern Utah's Canyonlands Area.

With a $10,000 gift from the North American Wild Sheep Foundation, the BLM was able to rent a helicopter to fly workers and the fiberglass basins into the remote area, southwest of Moab and about 200 miles southeast of Salt Lake City.

The Canyonlands Wildlife Federation has not only been involved in installing the catchments, he said, but they have agreed to take over all maintenance.