Simplified: The Sioux Falls area needs more water, and planned expansions within Minnehaha County as well as in the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System would help. The trick is funding them.

Why it matters

  • Water is essential, obviously, for folks to drink. But it's also needed in large quantities for industries, especially in agriculture.
  • Federal funds are available through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), and it'll be up to the state to decide whether to spend some of that money on water system expansion projects in the Sioux Falls region.
  • Sioux Falls City Council on Monday unanimously passed a resolution to urge the state to approve a request from Lewis & Clark for $44.7 million to expand water capacity from about 45 million gallons per day to 60 million gallons per day.
  • The next day, the Minnehaha County Commission heard more specifics about the need for water from Scott Buss, executive director of the Minnehaha Community Water Corporation.
"Of the 9.6 million gallons in demand, we have 9.2 million gallons in supply," Buss told commissioners, later adding, "There's not more water (in the current system) to go get."

What's the backstory here?

The Lewis & Clark Regional Water System is more than a decade behind schedule, due to a lack of federal funding, Larson said.

  • Congress approved the system in 2000, and since then has fallen behind on about $132 million in funding, he added.

Now, before its base system is completed, it's already time to talk about expanding.

Expanding the amount of water available per day in the regional water system was always part of the plan, but the drought conditions this summer exacerbated the need and accelerated expansion plans.

"If you'd asked me two years ago, I would've said, 'Oh I would guess 15 to 20 years is when we would complete the expansion," said Troy Larson, executive director for Lewis & Clark. "Now, I would guess within 10 years we'll complete the expansion ... all because of the drought."

To increase the amount of water available to members, it'll cost about $100 million – funding that comes not from the feds, but from the 20 members themselves.

  • Members include Harrisburg, Lennox, Beresford, Tea, Sioux Falls and the Minnehaha Community Water Corp.
  • Any ARPA money Lewis & Clark receives will help offset the costs to members.

What happens next?

The state will decide how to allocate ARPA funds, with decisions expected in late March.

Either way, water expansion projects will need to happen.

  • For Minnehaha County, it'll be a matter of finding funding for a proposed eight-million-gallon water treatment plant shared with Moody County as well as the construction of two new water towers and eight miles of pipe from Hartford to Humboldt, all projects described by Buss to commissioners this week.
  • For Lewis & Clark, it'll be up to the members to decide how to best balance the need for more water with the added costs.

But money isn't the only resource needed for water expansion.

"Even if money were no object, it would take about eight years to do this work," Larson said.