Simplified: More than 150 people gathered for the 10th annual Big Sioux River & Sustainability Summit on Thursday in Sioux Falls. Here's a look at what you may have missed if you weren't there.

Why it matters

  • This is the first year the event has focused not just on the river, but also on other sustainability efforts citywide – including things like composting, energy and waste reduction.
  • Though, water was still a big topic of discussion. Friends of the Big Sioux River Director Travis Entenman said he noticed more conversations on water quantity and availability this year, not just water quality.
  • With a broader focus, the conversations also included several Sioux Falls-based nonprofits including SoDak Compost, Building Sustainable Connections, IronFox Farms and more.
"Just the energy and excitement about the work that’s happening around the Big Sioux River and the watershed – it was a really great and energizing event," said Holly Meier, sustainability coordinator for the city.

What were some of the big topics of discussion?

When it comes to water and the river, Entenman said one of the biggest topics of discussion was about water quantity and availability.

  • Currently all of the water allocation in the Big Sioux River basin is spoken for, Entenman said. It's not all in use right now, but there's a finite amount of water allocation in the city. And when it's out, it's out.
  • That means, the region needs to be thinking about possible solutions in the long-term. (Editor's note: Don't freak out – we're set for quite awhile. It's just always good to plan ahead.)
"Barring some big miracle or something, we’re essentially going to have to put in another big pipe from the Missouri River," Entenman said.

The expanded summit also brought discussions about energy topics, like "beneficial electrification," Meier said.

Here's a quick rundown of some of the other topics featured:

  • Local food – how to grow it in an urban setting,
  • Composting – and the value food scraps can have when they're diverted from the landfill,
  • And why sustainability is important for Sioux Falls.

That last bullet point was covered in a panel discussion featuring four members of the steering committee overseeing the Sustainable Sioux Falls master plan – a citywide look at sustainability.

"There’s a growing understanding of what’s the issue," Entenman said. "And there are more folks talking about what can be done and why we need to do these things."

What happens next?

For the city, the focus remains on the Sustainable Sioux Falls plan – which was initially released this year but sent back for more work after initial feedback from the business community.

For the nonprofits, the focus remains on continuing to educate folks on the importance of sustainability and the various ways they can make more sustainable choices.

"Everyone understands that we’ve got to do something (to improve sustainability)," Entenman said. "And now it’s kind of working through the details of – as a community of various viewpoints – how do we make forward progress on that?"