Lewis & Clark is a wholesale provider of water to its 20 members in southeast South Dakota, northwest Iowa and southeast Minnesota. It was incorporated in 1990 and authorized by Congress in 2000 (P.L. 106-246). A groundbreaking ceremony was held in 2003, construction started in earnest in 2004, and finally in 2012 the System began delivering water its first members. The source of water is a series of wells that tap into an aquifer adjacent to the Missouri River, which is pumped to a treatment plant two miles north of Vermillion. Water is currently being delivered to 15 of the 20 members. Construction is approximately 82% complete as work continues to connect the remaining five members.
With the purpose of improved quality of life and expanded economic development opportunities, Lewis & Clark represents a unique regional approach to address common problems of water quality and quantity in a more effective and cost-efficient way than each member could do alone. The original capacity was 23.5 million gallons a day (MGD), but after authorization some members reserved additional capacity to expand the System at their cost to 45 MGD, with the ability to expand to 60 MGD in the future. Water rates cover all operational expenses.
Construction funding comes from three sources — the federal government, three states and 20 local members. The states and members have paid 100% of their cost share and then some, so the schedule to complete construction is entirely dependent upon federal funding levels. Construction oversight is provided by the Bureau of Reclamation. A hallmark of Lewis & Clark’s success through the years has been the strong support and leadership of the tristate congressional delegation working together across state and party lines to bring critically needed water to the region.
Lewis & Clark will ultimately provide a desperately needed source of quality, reliable drinking water to over 350,000 people in the tristate region. The success of this one-of-a-kind project is a testament to the cooperative efforts of the federal government, states of South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota and 20 local governments.