New Underwood hosts water conference with West River residents and leaders

NEW UNDERWOOD, S.D.– At the New Underwood Community Center, West River residents and leaders gathered together to discuss the need for one very important resource: water. As the area continues to grow due to the future arrival of the B-21, a constant water source or sources is going to be needed to accommodate for the new people. The Western Dakota Regional Water System was created to do just that and Tuesday’s luncheon was held to have people meet and talk about how to move forward.

New UnderwoodWhat is the Western Dakota Regional Water System?

The Western Dakota Regional Water System (WDRWS) was approved and created by an $8,000,000 grant from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Its goal is to ensure drinkable water in the West River region of the state. According to WDRWS the region has been reliant on locations such as the Madison and Minnelusa aquifers for groundwater, along with Cleghorn Springs and Rapid Creek as a drinking water supply. United States Geological Survey hydrologists have have reported normal groundwater levels currently, but are also seeing a downward trend following. “What we are trying to help provide information about is what is the current status of water supply in the in the Black Hills,” Hydrologist Galen Hoogestraat explained.” And give that information that can be used by other entities that are helping planning water supply projects like the Western Dakota Regional Water System.”

What is the next step for the program?

With the ARPA grant, they were able to get the project established and in motion. Right now, they are seeking funding for the studies and other information needed to determine a plan and proposed cost for the plan. President Dale Tech plans to take every step necessary to make sure the project is built accordingly for safe transport of the water. “There is a lot of analysis and engineering that needs to be done upfront before you can even get started on the alignment of the project and the environmental impacts and the demands and all of the inputs to the project, he explained. “We are just getting that off the ground. There will be other funding opportunities and certainly as a board, we are going to explore every single one of them.”

What is “water diversity” and why is it important for the project?

According to Tech, Western South Dakota has lack of what he refers to as “water diversity.” Water diversity refers to different sources of water distributed across the state. For example, once the project to bring the water from the Missouri River is complete and functioning, this will create a new source to pull water from as opposed to the aquifers or surrounding bodies of water. “The further east you go away from the Black Hills, the more scarce water becomes,” he said. “The local aquifers aren’t nearly as robust and the quality of water isn’t as good. So we’ve got to leverage the Missouri River water, which is a good water resource to help diversify our sources of water across western South Dakota.”

Why push so hard for the water source?

The more people come to the Black Hills the more finite water becomes, and warning people to conserve water will not be as effective. “We can’t easily predict 20 years, 50 years, 100 years. So the value of this project in comparison to the value of a sustainable future– there’s just no comparison,” Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender said. “It doesn’t matter what this water project costs. It’ll be worth that much and ten times more.

Categories: Local News, South Dakota News