Sioux Falls Invests in Wastewater Infrastructure Reform

In Sioux Falls, Mayor Paul TenHaken is looking to step forward with a massive infrastructure project in conjunction with the Public Health Department. The project will revamp and upgrade the city’s wastewater treatment plant infrastructure.

Dedicating $260 million to the project, the mayor cited that the city’s utility apparatus would have to be expanded to accommodate any residential and industrial growth that would enlarge the local economy. The project is on track to be the largest expenditure on infrastructure in the city’s history. As the city is expected to grow in numbers, TenHaken insists that reform of the wastewater treatment is a necessary investment.

Mayor TenHaken’s proposal is not only an improvement on the current local water infrastructure but a proactive step to stop a potential crisis of resources in the future. The city’s current facility is only capable of processing 21 million gallons of water daily, with a need to treat over 17 million gallons in order to satisfy the current population’s daily use. This leaves little room for population growth.

The facility currently uses five enormous disinfection basins (they are adding a sixth) to treat the water before redistributing it back into the Big Sioux River. Just eight years ago the requirement was three basins. In five years the facility is projected to be at maximum capacity. Mayor TenHaken is rightly concerned. The expansion project would future-proof the city’s wastewater supply to accommodate future growth. Without the expansion project, the city could find themselves in a public health crisis.


Project Details

One of the main focuses of the Sioux Falls wastewater expansion project is in regards to their eleven lift stations. A lift station is a mechanism that moves water from a lower elevation to a higher elevation. The lift stations will either be upgraded or replaced entirely.

Another objective of the expansion project is to enhance the capacity of the 57th Street sanitary sewer pump station on the east of town. The project would repair and replace older and outdated piping within the water treatment infrastructure throughout Sioux Falls. These two projects make up $100 million of the proposed $260 million budget.

The remaining $160 million will go towards improving and expanding the city’s water treatment facility as well as the facility’s 60-acre campus. Though the city’s sewer rates are expected to rise in cost, the project will bring much-needed reform to the local water system. The projected expansion would help push the local facility’s capacity from 21 million to 30 million to accommodate the projected 120,000+ people expected to move in by 2036.


The Cost of Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrades

While the Sioux Falls wastewater infrastructure reform has been touted by Mayor TenHaken as absolutely necessary, it does come with a high price tag. The city plans to pay the bulk of the expenditure with a low-interest loan from South Dakota’s state government. Sewage costs will inevitably rise with a plan to raise current water fees by 6% each year for the next three years.

Even with the increased costs, the city would not be the most expensive in water fees within South Dakota. Currently, Sioux Fall’s residents are charged $36 per 6,000 gallons of wastewater. Comparatively, Watertown holds the lowest rates in the state at $21.50 for the same gallons, while Harrisburg charges a whopping $75.44 for the same scenario, the highest of the state.

The Director of the Public Health Department, Mark Cotter, believes even with the eventual 18% increase, Sioux Fall’s rates will still be competitive. The proposal will be submitted to the City Council for approval later this month.



As populations continue to grow and resources become more limited, it is essential to maintain healthy water treatment plants for the public. Examples such as Flint show the dangers of when negligence and incompetence lead to a contaminated water supply and result in a public health emergency. Advancements in technology have drastically changed the efficiency and effectiveness of water treatment.

As a result, many municipalities must reform their infrastructure to fulfill their population’s basic needs. Wastewater treatment plants all over the world are investing in cloud-based SCADA monitoring systems in order to receive real-time data updates about equipment functionality and information about the water supply. This shift ensures public safety while reducing costs over time.