South Dakota Rural Water holds its annual technical conference from Tuesday to Thursday, Jan. 8-10, at the Ramkota in Pierre.

South Dakota Rural Water field program supervisor George Vansco said as the name suggests, the conference offers technical training and information for water boards, managers and operations staff who are delivering water to about two of every three people in South Dakota.

“There are 30 major rural water systems in South Dakota,” Vansco said. “We know that two-thirds of South Dakotans are served by rural water — that may be a low number. Every minute rural water systems produce 15,000 gallons of water.”

There are 265 towns and villages served by rural water in South Dakota, Vansco said, delivering water through more than 40,000 miles of pipeline — enough to encircle the earth one and one-half times.

This week’s conference covers a wide range of topics, from compliance monitoring, and future and current water rights to testing for new Environmental Protection Agency regulations. Representatives from specific rural water systems will also talk about their latest innovations, including, for example, the West River/Lyman Jones sytem’s meter reading project that relies on satellite technology — a first for South Dakota. Updates on legislative issues and exhibitors displays are also part of the convention.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard is the keynote speaker at Thursday’s awards luncheon.

This year’s convention also inclues the 38th annual membership meeting of the South Dakota Association of Rural Water Systems.

South Dakota’s first rural water systems — in Lincoln County, Butte/Meade and Rapid Valley — were built in the late 1960s, Vansco said. Two of the state’s 30 major rural water systems — the Southern Black Hills project and the Mni Wiconi project, which will ultimately reach all the way to the Rosebud, Lower Brule and Pine Ridge reservations — are still in development. Another project is just in the organizational stage in Bear Butte valley, Vansco said.

Vansco said rural water is a vital tool in economic development because it makes farms, ranches, dairies and other rural businesses possible.

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