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Water Is Infrastructure, Said Kristi Noem in March 2020

Speaking of critical infrastructure, Governor Kristi Noem and other Republicans have criticized President Joe Biden’s super-duper plan to reinforce and expand America’s economic infrastructure by playing word games and claiming that “research and development… housing and pipes and different initiatives, green energy” aren’t infrastructure.

My discussion of the Noem/ALEC anti-protest bills designed to distract us from their facilitation of white-nationalist domestic terrorism reminds me of the obvious critique: Kristi Noem wants to argue that pipes carrying water aren’t infrastructure, but pipes carrying oil are.

But Noem’s infrastructural hypocrisy goes beyond her belief that oil is more important than water. During the initial weeks of the pandemic, Governor Noem referred to our food pipeline—i.e., the national food supply chain—as critical infrastructure:

Water tubes aren't infrastructure, but tube steaks are. Gov. Kristi Noem, tweet, 2020.04.15.
Water tubes aren’t infrastructure, but tube steaks are. Gov. Kristi Noem, tweet, 2020.04.15.

All local and municipal governments within the State of South Dakota should…

20.  Protect the critical infrastructure sectors, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, such as healthcare services, pharmaceutical industry, and food supply entities, as these sectors have a special responsibility to maintain their normal work schedule [Gov. Kristi Noem, Executive Order 2020-08, 2020.03.23].

Governor Noem directed us all to read Executive Order 2020-08 “in conjunction with the list that is attached to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) memorandum dated March 19, 2020.” If we follow her order and read that list, we find that   Governor Noem was ordering us to follow the feds’ lead and view Smithfield’s hog-grinders and everything else in any of these sixteen sectors as critical infrastructure:

Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, "Identifying Critical Infrastructure During Covid-19," graphic, updated 2020.12.16.
Annotated with circle by CAH; Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, “Identifying Critical Infrastructure During Covid-19,” graphic, updated 2020.12.16.
  1. Chemical Sector
  2. Commercial Facilities Sector
  3. Communications Sector
  4. Critical Manufacturing Sector
  5. Dams Sector
  6. Defense Industrial Base Sector
  7. Emergency Services Sector
  8. Energy Sector
  9. Financial Services Sector
  10. Food and Agriculture Sector
  11. Government Facilities Sector
  12. Healthcare and Public Health Sector
  13. Information Technology Sector
  14. Nuclear Reactors, Materials, and Waste Sector
  15. Transportation Systems Sector
  16. Water and Wastewater Systems Sector

Give that last one a big, wet click:

Safe drinking water is a prerequisite for protecting public health and all human activity. Properly treated wastewater is vital for preventing disease and protecting the environment. Thus, ensuring the supply of drinking water and wastewater treatment and service is essential to modern life and the Nation’s economy [CISA, “Water and Wastewater Systems Sector,” retrieved 2021.04.16].

I’m not reaching for some contorted liberal definition of infrastructure to try including dog parks and a student loan jubilee in President Biden’s infrastructure plan (although if we let every pay off their student loans by joining a 21st-century CCC and fixing roads…). I’m reading the definition of infrastructure that Governor Noem told us to read just last year. And according to that definition, water pipes aren’t just peripheral items in the vast Venn diagram of infrastructure: water pipes are critical infrastructure, infrastructure we can’t do without, infrastructure we ought to fight and die and tweet and issue executive orders for and spend money on to keep everyone alive and healthy.

We gotta eat. We gotta drink. It doesn’t get more basic than that. And if we don’t have free ice water, Wall Drug will close, and then where will we be?

Mni infrastructure, mni wiconiwater is infrastructure, water is life. Governor Noem’s own Executive Order 2020-08 said so last year.

So drop the baloney, Kristi, and let’s help the President build some water pipes.


  1. Richard Schriever 2021-04-16 14:36

    Oh come on!! Only the GOP itself is “real” infrastructure in SD. Everything else is to be regarded as a luxury.

  2. Donald Pay 2021-04-16 14:48

    Cory, here I was planning my South Dakota insurrection, and you’re trying to ruin it for me. Noem had let me know that I could blow up WEB, and the Sioux Falls and Rapid City water plants and, as long as I leave the oil pipelines alone, I would not cause any damage to critical infrastructure. I mean as a terrorist committed to saving critical infrastructure so people won’t suffer, I wanted to make sure they had plenty of oil.

  3. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-04-16 15:27

    Sorry to foil your plot, Donald… but in 2020, Kristi signed SB 151 that wrote into South Dakota law a definition of “critical infrastructure facility” that includes “Water tower, municipal or rural water system well, water intake structure, or water treatment facility….” 2020 SB 151 also added such critical infrastructure facilities to the list of infrastructure, including water supply, you durst not damage unless you want felony charges.

  4. Mark Anderson 2021-04-16 15:38

    Kristi would have done wonders in New Zealand. She would have wiped out 15,000 and declared freedom and victory.

  5. Donald Pay 2021-04-16 15:44

    Ah, I get it. You can’t blow it up. Can you purposely let it rust an rot out, or poison the water supply with lead? It seems a lot of Republican governors might want to think a bit about opposing reasonable bills to fix lead pipes, don’t you think? Isn’t poisoning people’s water supply as bad, or worse, than blowing it up?

  6. mike from iowa 2021-04-16 15:58

    Noem is probably thinking along the lines of a Cheyenne Mountain tv bunker in the Black Hills so she can safely and securely hook up with Fake Noize viewers who swill her propaganduh.

  7. grudznick 2021-04-16 16:19

    Mr. Pay, it is lucky for grudznick you refuse to set foot back in the Great State of South Dakota, for I fear you fancy yourself sort of a Twilly Spree to my Palmer Stoat.

  8. Donald Pay 2021-04-16 16:32

    Twilly Spree is fiction, Grudz. I’m the real deal. That is a funny novel, though.

  9. grudznick 2021-04-16 17:10

    Me too, Mr. Pay. Me too.

  10. Mark Anderson 2021-04-17 19:35

    Come on grudz, I’ll be back in So dak this summer and I’m a Florida boy who stands his ground.

  11. grudznick 2021-04-17 19:48

    What are you saying, Mr. Anderson? You want to go into environmental terrorist mode, or you want to break up my breakfasting by throwing a gravy soaked biscuit at the waiter and pounding your sausage on the edge of the table?

    That might be the Florida way, but not the way we behave in the Great State of South Dakota.

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