By Hélène Duhamel
If ever there was an underestimated natural resource, look at the water. Historically abundant and fluid, it is easily taken for granted. But in scarcity, the consequences are dire indeed. As the American sage Benjamin Franklin said: “When the well runs dry, we will know the value of the water. “
Today I want to promote the merits of bringing water from the Missouri River to West River in South Dakota. Imagine with me the benefits resulting from abundance – our drinking water supply, industrial use and agriculture will be affected, to name a few. Now imagine, over a planning horizon of over fifty years, a West River population growing from a quarter of a million to over 600,000! Our existing water resources simply cannot support this expansion.
To ensure availability, we must act now. An adequate water supply in the future is in the order of billions of gallons per year. Because of the costs associated with large-scale projects, a prudent and economical approach must be taken to protect the interests of taxpayers. I call on leaders to begin the planning process. The agenda should include:
◼ Commitments from our municipal, departmental, tribal and state elected officials committing to work together because of the urgency of this problem;
Harness the expertise of the State Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources, our local South Dakota School of Mines staff and other professionals to guide the planning process;
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Mobilize broad support among users and beneficiaries, such as Elevate Rapid City, Economic Development, Ellsworth Air Force Base and farm organizations; and
◼ Inform the public of the value that this project brings to our region.
Governments in South Dakota are familiar with the subject of water development. More recently, many communities in southeastern South Dakota have come together to create the Lewis and Clark Water System. We can learn from and learn from this success. West River also has a very good example in the Mni Wiconi project, which serves many communities in ten counties. But now we are talking about a project that would complement the current water resources of western South Dakota to meet future needs, ensuring a prosperous and vibrant future.
Tapping into the virtually unlimited supply of the Missouri River is our answer and our promise for a plentiful supply of water from the West River. And now is the time to get started!
Helene Duhamel represents District 32 in the South Dakota State Senate.