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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

South Dakota: Belle Fourche River

In 2004 the Partnership adopted a watershed approach to implement the Belle Fourche River TMDL. To target the best management practices (BMPs) recommended by the TMDL, the Partnership developed the Ten-Year Belle Fourche River Watershed Strategic Implementation Plan and the Five-Year Belle Fourche Irrigation District Water Conservation Plan. The plans focus on improving the conveyance efficiency of irrigation, modifying on-farm delivery of irrigation waters, restoring riparian rangeland areas, and emphasizing public outreach.

The Partnership worked with producers to complete numerous projects within the near-Fruitdale to Whitewood Creek portion of the Belle Fourche River watershed, including rehabilitating 2,000 acres of riparian grazing land and improving irrigation efficiency. The partners implemented canal automation, developed a canal operational model, updated the water card/billing system, and lined open cannels and laterals within the Belle Fourche Irrigation District. These projects increased irrigation delivery efficiency dramatically (estimated at more than 10 percent) and improved the understanding of how the system operates as a whole. Partners installed nine center-pivot irrigation systems to replace the existing flood irrigation practices (Figure 2).


Improving the efficiency of irrigation systems has significantly reduced the amount of sediment-laden water returned to the river and its tributaries. Providing off-stream water supply for livestock and managed grazing alternatives has also improved the surface water quality by trapping sediments before they can enter the stream.

Recent water quality monitoring data show that both previously impaired segments of the Belle Fourche River now meet the TSS water quality standard, which requires that TSS levels be less than 158 mg/L (Table 1). As a result, South Dakota removed the segments from its CWA section 303(d) list in 2008 (Figure 3).

Partners and Funding

The success of the project is largely a result of the participation of the following local, state and federal agencies and organizations: Butte and Lawrence County Conservation District, Elk Creek Conservation District, South Dakota Conservation Commission, South Dakota Department of Agriculture, South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources, South Dakota Game Fish and Parks, South Dakota Grassland Coalition, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, South Dakota State University, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, EPA, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality.

The Partnership and its collaborators are in their sixth year of implementing projects in the South Dakota portion of the watershed. To date, approximately $14.3 million from several local, state and federal sources has supported watershed rehabilitation efforts. Of that total amount, approximately $3.7 million was granted from EPA CWA section 319 funds through the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources, $6.0 million came from local participants, and $4.6 million was secured from other federal sources.

Table 1. Recent water quality monitoring results for the Belle Fourche River (2005–2007)
Monitoring Station Location

Mean TSS Level

Near Fruitdale to Whitewood Creek


Whitewood Creek to Willow Creek


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