Connecting the Missouri River, addressing Western South Dakota’s future water needs

Published: Dec. 1, 2021 at 7:10 PM CST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - Groups gathered Saturday at South Dakota Mines for the first annual meeting put on by a new non profit called Western Dakota Regional Water System. Which, was formed solely to bring Missouri River water to Western South Dakota.

The reason that’s being tossed around the table is because groups say it’s time to start assuring the future water needs of South Dakota will be met.

“It’s a foundation for our lives, right,” asks Scott Kenner, Professor at South Dakota Mines for 28 years?

The average Rapid City citizen uses roughly 168 gallons of water every single day. With the population increasing and continued drought... In the future, that may no longer be sustainable. That’s why conversations are taking place about bringing water from the Missouri River to Rapid City.

“All of us expect to turn on the faucet in the morning and have water come out, and if we don’t do this,” Kenner says, “there will be some mornings people might turn on the faucet and there won’t be water there.”

Cheryl Chapman, with Western Dakota Regional Water System, says the School of Mines took a look at the benefits of having a connection to the Missouri River a couple years back.

“We learned from South Dakota Mines that if we were to be in a prolonged drought,” says Chapman, “we would be very tight on available water for the current population.”

Then, they relayed their advice to the Western Dakota Water Development District, where she says they said, “it’s important to renew their future use water permit on the Missouri River.”

She says now people are getting together and beginning to look at a connecting water line.

“If we needed water tomorrow, it would be very difficult. These big projects take time. We’re at the very early stages,” says Chapman.

In these stages, she says they’re encouraging people to get together, something Kenner says is vital in preparing for the future.

“We have to see ourselves as a region that uses the Black Hills. The water resources in the Black Hills,” Kenner says, “because it’s not me getting mine, it’s us managing the resources that we all use.”

“If you want to be on your own. Then,” Kenner adds, “you’re going to be on your own. That’s a harder place to be than working with a community.”

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