The Big Sioux River is in trouble, according to Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether.

“But guess what? It is an impaired body of water. It is,” Huether said. “It’s impaired, I would encourage no one to swim in that water right now.”

But a federal, state, local and landowner partnership - and about $4.5 million over the next five years may change that - some day.

At a news conference Friday in Falls Park, officials gathered to announce the Central Big Sioux River Water Quality Project. It will emphasize decreasing e-coli bacteria rates from cattle waste as well as sediment from erosion.

Todd Epp/Results Radio

The USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Services’ Jeff Zimprich says it all starts with the landowners.

“This work is work that’s going to be done by individual producers on the landscape,” Zimprich said. “This is voluntary conservation at its best. This is about a landowner or operator trying to decide what’s best for their operation and implement those solutions.”

Zimprich said some solutions can be as easy as moving a fence line to keep cattle out of a creek and letting its banks heal to helping farmers build better - but expensive - waste containment systems for their barns or feedlots.