Essential intake valves responsible for half of Yankton's water are buried by sand under the Missouri River. It hasn't caused a water shortage problem and city employees are working to keep it that way.
For decades, the current of the Missouri River favored the South Dakota side of the river creating a sandbar along the Nebraska edge. But since last year's flooding, the Missouri River current has flip flopped, covering essential water pumps in Yankton under four feet of sand.
"It is directly related to the flooding. We have never had this issue with the sandbar in this area until after the flooding and the change in the river," Yankton Director of Environmental Services Kyle Goodmanson said.
An orange buoy marks the spot where a water intake valve used to suck 28,000 gallons per minute of Missouri River water. But now the sand cut production to just 800 gallons a minute.
Three months ago, Goodmanson noticed the problem.
Since then, the city's had the delicate task of figuring out how to fix it, while maintaining current water production. Goodmanson says one option is raising the intake screen above the sandbar with an elbow pipe. But time is ticking.
The hot weather coupled with dry conditions has amped up demand for water.
"We've approached six million gallons a day usage here in the city of Yankton already this year. We haven't hit that mark in the last couple years. So on top of this, we're hitting a demand that is higher than we've had in the last few years, so timing isn't good either," Goodmanson said.
The city says they're doing everything they can to stay ahead of the situation. In fact, workers already dug holes next to the pump stations for temporary pumps if they aren't able to keep up with the city’s demand for water.
The issue hasn't forced water restrictions on the city. But with the unusually low flows, Goodmanson hopes to have a solution by early next week.
To make up for the lower production from the intake pumps, the city is relying more on wells to keep up with demand.