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Small city is example of Utah's big water problem

Posted at 5:49 PM, Aug 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-04 19:49:43-04

ECHO, Utah — There's no spinning it that the city of Echo is pretty much out of water.

The city sandwiched right in between a freeway interchange and red rock Echo Canyon has, according to the 2010 census (the last data recorded), 56 people living there.

It's a tiny little town that is listed on several must-see lists for Utah’s ghost towns, but for the few people living in there, they have a big water problem.

The city relies on spring water to feed most of its drinking water, but like other sources of water, those dry up because of the drought.

“I’ve been doing this a long time now and this is the worst I’ve ever seen it,” said Tage Flint, Director of the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District. “As far as stats go, we’re at about a 1-in-120-year event.”

The Weber Basin Water Conservancy District works with around 80 communities in five counties and is responsible for a lot of the water used in the state.

While Echo is one of the smallest places it serves, it is their responsibilitym and for Flint he says they are stepping up to help.

Because the city mostly runs off wells, it isn’t very often that the Conservancy District must worry about their supply, but thanks to the drought this year that changed.

“Drought will impact springs just like it does everything else,” said Flint.

To start, the district is going through the town's infrastructure to make sure it's using water as efficiently as possible, but that still won’t solve the issue.

“More important and more immediately, we are trucking water for them into their water tanks so that they do not run dry,” said Flint. “With about nine tank loads, we think that we’ve been able to give them a water supply for about 10 days.”

It's not just the district that’s stepping up. Multiple neighboring towns and cities have volunteered water for the district to truck to Echo in order to help them with their issues.

For now, that’s a stop gap in what has been a terrible year; but one thing about it all adds a little bit of insult to injury. Most people in Utah know Echo, not for the city, but the reservoir.

Echo city sits at the bottom of Echo Reservoir Dam on the north side of the body of water. While the reservoir is very low as well, there is still tons of water in it. Unfortunately, it can’t be used to help the small city out.

“Taking water out of the reservoir for the drinking water system simply won’t work,” Flint explains. “It hasn’t been treated or prepared.”

The problem is a microcosm of the bigger issue because as summer and the drought goes on, more and more towns can and will face running out of water as a real possibility.

“We suspect that some of the very small entities might have a water shortage before the end of the year," Flint says, admitting that there are already some places they are looking at as trouble areas.

But the fact remains, the state needs a good finish to the summer with as much precipitation as possible; a great snowpack for the winter and conservation efforts all along to make sure next summer is better for water reserves.