Aberdeen is hoping to spend $334 million of mostly federal money to draw 44 million gallons of water a day from the Missouri River to hydrate northeastern South Dakota. Rapid City is leading Black Hills interests in a pitch to spend over five times that much to pull Big Mo H2O the other direction:
Mayors Steve Allender of Rapid City, Larry Larson of Box Elder, and Teresa Hall of New Underwood talked about the need for working together as a region to bring Missouri River water to western South Dakota during the “Water is Our Future” summit.
Panel participants throughout the event discussed funding, what already exists to get the project moving, and the necessity to build a 171-mile system to bring water to the area. The project has an estimated cost of $1.87 billion [Siandhara Bonnet, “Mayors, Lawmakers Make Pitch to Spend $1.8 Billion for Missouri River Water,” Rapid City Journal, 2021.12.01].
In these stages, she says they’re encouraging people to get together, something [SD School of Mines & Technology Scott] Kenner says is vital in preparing for the future.
“We have to see ourselves as a region that uses the Black Hills. The water resources in the Black Hills,” Kenner says, “because it’s not me getting mine, it’s us managing the resources that we all use.”
“If you want to be on your own. Then,” Kenner adds, “you’re going to be on your own. That’s a harder place to be than working with a community” [Jeffrey Lindblom, “Connecting the Missouri River, Addressing Western South Dakota’s Future Water Needs,” KOTA-TC, 2021.12.01].
It’s going to take a lot more community effort—i.e., federal government investment—to get Missouri River water to run uphill to Rapid City. As I noted in my November 19 report on Aberdeen’s mega-agua proposal, the Noem Administration has proposed spending $600 million in American Rescue Plan Act dollars (that’s the first wave of support President Biden sent us, despite our Republican leaders’ rejection of that plan). The state has received nearly 250 requests for funding from that tranche totaling over $3.2 billion.
While Rapid City waits for pennies from Washington via Pierre, Black Hills residents might want to consider water conservation. KOTA notes that Rapid City’s per capita water use is 168 gallons per day. A couple weeks ago, NPR reported that the California town of Heraldsburg responded to drought by limiting residents’ water use to 74 gallons per day. One retired couple found they could far exceed that conservation goal:
EZRA DAVID ROMERO, BYLINE: Back in June, the wine country town of Healdsburg set a limit – only 74 gallons of water a day for each resident, about half of normal use. That set up a bit of a competition for retirees Merrilyn Joyce and John Diniakos.
JOHN DINIAKOS: I take a shower every other day, sometimes every three days.
ROMERO: But Joyce says she’s winning their water war.
MERRILYN JOYCE DINIAKOS: Because I do laundry much less often.
ROMERO: The couple reduced their combined water use to just 24 gallons a day, a fraction of what they’re allowed. They use a phone app called Flume, purchased with help from a city rebate, which, through a meter, informs them how much water they use by the minute.
M DINIAKOS: So John just took a shower and that shows you how much water he used.
ROMERO: Just under two gallons of water, all caught in a bucket.
M DINIAKOS: And then we save that water and use it for something else [Ezra David Romero, “How One California City Cut Its Water Use in Half,” NPR: Morning Edition, 2021.11.16].
Spend $1.87 billion in mostly federal money to carry water 170 miles from the River to the Hills, or take shorter showers—which sounds like the more ruggedly individual conservative solution to you?
Waste not, want not.