Press Kit

Overview 

Water is the Fuel of Future Economic Development 

Western Dakota Regional Water System is an alliance of forward thinking community, governmental and water system leaders who believe that the future of western South Dakota will be fueled by access to abundant and quality water.

The water supply of western South Dakota, sourced mostly from underground aquifers, has sustained its residents for generations. As the population of western South Dakota grows, however, ground and surface waters will be stretched to unsustainable levels. 

In fact, under extended drought conditions, western South Dakota’s aquifers have already been pushed to unsustainable levels.  

WDRWS has begun the process of exploring the opportunity of bringing a new source of water to western South Dakota: the Missouri River. Water from the Missouri River could potentially be a permanent source of plentiful, high-quality water for western South Dakota. 

WDRWS, a nonprofit organization, was formed in September of 2021 with the purpose of providing water support to the growing populations of western South Dakota. Thank you for your interest in discovering more about this organization. For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Executive Director Cheryl Chapman at cheryl.chapman@wdrws.org

History and Background 

Missouri River Water Permits

In the 1970s and 80s, leaders from western South Dakota were forward-thinking enough to anticipate the future water needs of their communities by securing Missouri River water permits. These permits have been faithfully renewed for decades. 

When the Western Dakota Water Development District (WDWDD) was recently faced with the decision of whether or not to renew their Missouri River water use permit, the organization decided to get more information. To address the question of the necessity of renewal, WDWDD commissioned the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (SDSMT) to complete a study of current and future water needs of western South Dakota. 

2019 SDSMT study 

This comprehensive study was completed in 2019, and it laid out three water scenarios for western South Dakota. 

  1. During a prolonged period of above-average rainfall, western South Dakota’s current water supply would sustain its people for the next 100 to 200 years or more. 
  2. During a prolonged period of typical rainfall, western South Dakota’s current water supply could sustain its people for the next 50 to 100 years. 
  3. During a prolonged period of drought, western South Dakota’s current water supply is inadequate today. 

The 2019 SD Mines Study concluded by stating: “A strong need for new sources of water within the study area exists … If water is to be brought to western Pennington County via pipeline from the Missouri River, a project such as this would likely take decades to approve and construct. As the population in the area increases, the need to ensure water security will grow ever greater. Therefore, local entities with a stake in our water security should pool their resources to ensure that they are proactive in securing future sources of water, one of which could involve water from the Missouri River.”

With this new information in hand, WDWDD plans on renewing their Missouri River water permit — now with a sense of urgency to discuss new sources of water for western South Dakota.

A Renewed Sense of Urgency 

In September of 2021, a new nonprofit organization was formed to address the issue of the water needs of western South Dakota — Western Dakota Regional Water System (WDRWS).  

A Grassroots Approach 

Since its beginning, WDRWS has strived to unite the water authorities of communities large and small in western South Dakota. In fact, approximately 45 percent of the water used in western South Dakota is used by smaller water systems (one well serving a few houses). Please view our membership directory for more information on the communities involved with WDRWS. 

ARPA funding — A Once in a Lifetime Opportunity

In April of 2022, WDRWS received an $8 million grant from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) from the South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources. These funds have been used to develop a more detailed regional water system needs assessment, develop concept designs for a fully regional water system, to analyze the financial necessities of a regional water system and more. 

Following this first round of ARPA funding, Senate Bill 156, as amended, was introduced in the South Dakota State Legislature during the 2023 session of congress. The bill directed the remaining $100 million of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money allocated to South Dakota to be used for water projects in the state. WDRWS would have been eligible for some of the funds, which would be managed by the DANR, similarly to the ARPA funds passed in the 2022 legislature. 

Since the bill was for funding, it required a two-thirds vote. It passed through both houses in the legislature, but with differing amounts. The bill was sent to a conference committee and was amended to dedicating $50 million for water projects. The Senate passed the conference committee report, but the House failed to pass the report by two votes. 

The bill’s primary sponsor was Senator Helene Duhamel (R-Rapid City). When introducing the bill on the Senate floor, she said, “Our goal is to bring Missouri River water to the parched communities of western South Dakota. We need to use what we can because we may never have this opportunity again in our lifetime. This is an ideal use for the dollars, and I hope that my fellow legislators will choose to give us the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to jumpstart these projects. The clock is ticking. Let’s do this.” 

Even though Senate Bill 156 was not signed into law, its supporters hope that its journey through the legislative process will bring a new level of awareness of the need for a new water source for western South Dakota.

An Opportunity to Secure the Future 

Most of the drinking water in western South Dakota comes from underground aquifers. Wells tap these subterranean water sources and the water is treated and distributed to the end user. Careful calculations are made when tapping an aquifer — take too much water out too quickly and water can be depleted and a community could find itself in a crisis. Under extended drought conditions, western South Dakota’s aquifers have already been pushed to unsustainable levels.

The Opportunity 

Every state in the nation is in conversation about securing their futures with sustainable water sources. Some states and communities are having their water conversations under conditions of crisis. 

As western South Dakota grows, so do opportunities and prosperity. Western South Dakota has an opportunity to avoid making desperate decisions about water and growth. WDRWS believes in being proactive and preparing for the burgeoning future of western South Dakota by securing sustainable water today. 

Other States

The Missouri River is a tremendously valuable resource when it comes to water. Other states are already eyeing the river as a solution to their water shortages. Will South Dakota be ready when other states start tapping into the Missouri River?

Consequences of Inaction 

The future of Western South Dakota is bright. People from other states are looking to western South Dakota as an ideal place to live and raise their families. Some experts estimate that the population of Western South Dakota could double in the next 20 years.

The Madison and the Minnelusa aquifers have reliably sustained the residents of western South Dakota for centuries, but if nothing is done about western South Dakota’s increasing need for water, the outlook is bleak. Western South Dakota could see sharp increases in water rates, extreme conservation measures and economic and community progress could slow to a trickle. 

Western South Dakota is at a crossroads when it comes to its future. The growth and prosperity of the region for the next generation is dependent on the decisions that are made by this generation. 

Addressing Some Concerns 

Funding

It’s expected that the majority of the necessary funding will come from federal support. Another large portion is expected to come from the State. 

The federal government has several overlapping interests in keeping plentiful, reliable drinking water to the citizens of western South Dakota. From the Department of Defense to Tribal Trusts to the US Forest Service, the federal government has a significant stake in the quality of life and prosperity of western South Dakota.   

Environmental Impact

This project would have an overall positive impact on the ecosystems of western South Dakota. By putting less pressure on aquifers, natural recharge is allowed to happen at a more sustainable rate. By preserving ground waters, surface waters are also preserved. This project would aid in conserving the gorgeous natural surroundings of western South Dakota for future generations. 

Alternative Solutions

WDRWS is committed to considering every possible opportunity to source the water needs for the future of western South Dakota. In the coming months and years, the WDRWS engineering team will be studying the water needs of the communities of western South Dakota and will determine the most cost effective way to move forward. WDRWS invites you to stay informed on this process. 

The Plan

The Pipeline

A pipeline from the Missouri River to western South Dakota would bring enough water to the region for the foreseeable future. The 2019 SD Mines study suggested two different options for the size of the pipeline. A three foot diameter pipeline would be able to convey approximately 10,000 acre feet of water per year. A six foot diameter pipeline would be able to convey approximately 76,000 acre feet of water per year. 

The Missouri River

The Missouri River is a natural resource that cannot be overvalued. In the 1970s and 80s, leaders from western South Dakota were forward-thinking enough to anticipate the future water needs of their communities by securing Missouri River water permits. These permits have been faithfully renewed for decades. 

A water pipeline from the Missouri River to Western South Dakota has the potential to give the people of Western South Dakota a source of reliable, quality water for generations to come. 

The Path

Determining the exact path of a pipeline from the Missouri River to western South Dakota would be difficult at this time. The exact route will ultimately be determined by community needs, landowner cooperation and other factors. Please stay tuned for more information and updates on progress. 

Learning from the Past  

A project of this scope is not unprecedented. In fact, South Dakota has had a successful history channeling the plentiful, high quality water of the Missouri River into local communities. The highly successful Mni Wiconi project supplies clean, reliable Missouri River water to the people of ten counties in central and southwest South Dakota. 

Additionally, the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System is a series of pipelines, treatment centers, and reservoirs that provides Missouri River water to 20 member cities and rural communities in southeast South Dakota, northwest Iowa and southwest Minnesota. 

These two projects and others will serve as an example and inspiration for Western Dakota Regional Water System. 

For the Benefit of Every Western South Dakotan

A Project for Everyone

Western South Dakota communities each face their own unique set of challenges. But, access to a sustainable water source is a universal question facing every community across western South Dakota. 

Bringing Missouri River water to Western South Dakota won’t just benefit larger cities or any particular industry — plentiful, quality water benefits every community that has access to it. A sustainable source of water would result in a higher quality of life, regardless of population or location. 

A Win for the Taxpayer 

Water systems throughout western South Dakota provide a tremendous service to their communities. It’s no small feat to supply residents with water. By consolidating efforts, local water systems will end up saving money and create more economic opportunities for their communities. Local taxpayers, ultimately, get to reap the benefits of this truly community undertaking.

In the News

WDRWS in the News

Meet the Board

President of the Board Dale Tech

Public Works Director, City of Rapid City

Secretary/ Treasurer Doug Curry

Public Works Director, City of Box Elder

Board Member Nick Broyles  

Public Works Director, City of Spearfish

Board Member Teresa Hall 

Mayor, City of New Underwood  

Board Member Jake Fitzgerald 

Manager, West River/Lyman Jones Rural Water System

Board Member Chuck Jones

Director, Oglala Sioux Tribe Department of Water Maintenance & Conservation; Board Member, Mni Wiconi

Executive Director Cheryl Chapman, PhD, P.E.

 

Meet the Consulting Team

 

AE2S

AE2S is a 100 percent employee-owned environmental engineering consulting firm that was founded in the Upper Midwest in 1991 and over the years has worked with clients to plan, develop, design and construct thousands of water projects. AE2S specializes in drinking water and has developed and designed more than 30 regional water systems over the past 20 years. AE2S has offices in Rapid City, Spearfish and Sioux Falls, as well as 17 additional offices across North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, Wisconsin, Colorado, and Utah.

Black & Veatch

Black & Veatch has served water utilities and industrial clients for more than 100 years. With a focus on digital water and data analytics, Black & Veatch helps to drive a coordinated effort across the full spectrum of water services, from repairing aging water infrastructure, preserving, and protecting groundwater and watersheds, providing effective flood control and managing storm drainage. The company is invested in sustainable water use, relying on water reuse technologies to help clients bolster their water supply portfolios. 

KLJ

KLJ has provided engineering and planning services for local, regional and national infrastructure projects for more than 80 years. With more than 25 office locations in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Colorado, Minnesota and Texas, KLJ is well positioned to handle any project needs at a regional or national level. From regional water projects, superstructures, and county highways to municipal airports and beyond, KLJ offers the size and scope of services required, with the local expertise to drive projects forward to successful results.

Evergreen Media

Evergreen Media is a Rapid City-based company that specializes in creating high-quality local publications. Some of their titles include Black Hills Visitor, Black Hills Bride, FACES of the Black Hills and many more well-beloved Black Hills magazines. The Evergreen team also serves clients by assisting them in their marketing and content development needs.