Water Awareness Summit brings attention to future Missouri Water Pipeline bill proposal

The bill intends to allocate some of the roughly $600 to $900 million dollars of eligible funding from federal COVID relief for a pipeline that will carry water from the Missouri River to western South Dakota.

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Communities in the Black Hills are growing, but with that growth also brings into question the availability of natural resources like water.

To shed light on the issue, a Water Awareness Summit was held at South Dakota Mines in Rapid City. At the summit, the first annual meeting for the West Dakota Water Development District was held, which also featured the creation of the nonprofit organization.

A piece of discussion at the summit proved to be of a new bill proposed by District 32 Senator Helene Duhamel.

The bill intends to allocate some of the roughly $600 to $900 million of eligible funding from federal COVID relief for a pipeline that will carry water from the Missouri River to western South Dakota.

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“I think people are waking up to realize how precious water is and the scarcity in our area with just a couple of years of drought,” Duhamel said. “Right now we have shortages, streams and lakes dry up. Our quality of life, much less the growth that we need and we know is coming.”

Duhamel says that the hiring of engineers to come up with plans for the pipeline will take place Thursday.

A large portion of the Rapid City’s water comes from Pactola Reservoir and Rapid Creek. The city has seen its population grow steadily at a one to two percent clip every year for over a century.

But officials believe that growth is out-pacing its availability of water for future use.

“20, 30, 40 years from now, we believe that the population here will be taxing the current water resources,” said Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender. “Some of those aquifers that we use also have a life, a predicted life, where they may not produce in the future.”

Water resource professionals like Scott Kenner, who also taught as a professor at South Dakota Mines for 28 years, says the area could run out of water in the next 100 years under normal conditions. This doesn’t take into account extreme drought years and population growth.

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“What’s the water available and do we need water? And without a doubt, as we showed today, there is a need for water in the future,” Kenner said.

Duhamel will introduce the bill during the start of the next legislative session in January of 2022.

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