As West River’s population grows, so does the concern about water resources

The late evening news on KEVN Black Hills Fox Monday-Friday
Published: Feb. 17, 2023 at 8:01 PM MST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - As West River communities continue to expand, the need for water increases, but it isn’t an endless supply.

That’s where the nonprofit organization Western Dakota Regional Water System comes in. The plan is to pump water for about 200 miles from the Missouri River to the Black Hills. But the water won’t flow overnight.

“So we’re we’re moving quickly, comparatively, but certainly before any water can be can be delivered, that takes decades. It’ll take massive funding to be able to do that. A lot of analysis, a lot of engineering involved in that. But this is a 20- to 30-year process,” said Rapid City Public Works Director Dale Tech.

South Dakota Mines completed a study two years ago, diving into the strain people put on West River water resources. They looked at the impact in dry, wet and average years.

That study stirred communities to action.

“Now is probably an appropriate time to start down the road of making rural water system from Missouri River westward a reality,” said Tech.

Since then, Western Dakota Regional Water System is working with state and federal agencies, as well as raising funds, to bring the project to life.

“And so oftentimes, organizations like the Bureau of Reclamation, with the federal government will work with communities on projects like these, together with the state and then of course, local governments to help provide water directly to their citizens,” said Dr. Cheryl Chapman, executive director for Western Dakota Regional Water System.

Chapman says that the study from South Dakota mines was nearly a $2 billion estimate.

Western Dakota has taken the initiative to speak to other communities and rural water systems to find out how much water is being used currently and to see how much is needed in the future.

“Once we know how much water is needed by different communities and when they’ll need it, we can start planning how much water we’ll need to bring in where we need to bring it to,” said Chapman.

Senate Bill 156 by Senator Helene Duhamel would allocate $100 million from the American Rescue Plan Act. That bill is still awaiting it’s initial hearing.