BRANDON, S.D. (KELO) — Three months after a derecho caused major damage to a large water tower in Brandon, the project is back to the same status it was before the storm hit. 

Brandon city engineer Tami Jansma told KELOLAND News the May 12 storm, which had wind speeds as high as 107 mph, caved in part of the water tower’s steel bowl that was raised in the air. The new water tower will be able to hold 1.25 million gallons of water. 

“That bowl had to be cut apart and taken back down,” Jansma said. “We had to reorder the steel for it, they had to manufacture it and get it back up.” 

On the left, the 1.25 million gallon water tower after the May 12 derecho damage.
On the right, the water tower on Aug. 12, three months after the storm.

Jansma said there’s still hope the water tower could be painted and finished before cold weather hits. Jansma said the city has appreciated how the contractor on the project has been able to get the project backup to pre-storm status. 

“That’s kind of the best we can expect,” Jansma said. 

The 1.25 million gallon water tower project is part of Brandon’s Water Smarter Program which also includes water treatment plant expansion. In March 2021, the city of Brandon released a 176-page report for the future of the city’s water system.  

Along with the new water tower, the city is doubling the size of its existing water treatment plant, which currently can process roughly 2,000 gallons of water per minute.  

Jansma said the expanded water treatment plant will be able to process 4,000 gallons of water per minute. 

“We’re at about 90% capacity for it for our population size,” Jansma said, adding the 90% capacity is for peak summer days. “So we need to double the size of it. As we went through that process with (city) council, we also took a look at softening our water.” 

Construction has started to expand the water treatment plant along with installation of reverse osmosis treatment technology. That process will bring down the hardness from the groundwater pumped from the Split Rock Creek aquifer, where 90% of Brandon’s water supply comes from. 

“It’s completely chemical free and that’s going to take out that calcium and magnesium that makes the water hard,” Jansma said about the reverse osmosis treatment. “We would have the soft water, very comparable to the Minnehaha County Rural Water and the city of Sioux Falls.” 

The water treatment plant upgrades will cost the city about $25 million and the city did earn $7.4 million in grant funding from the American Rescue Plant Act. Jansma said water rates in the city will increase starting January 2023 to help cover the project. 

The water treatment plant expansion is expected to be finished by November 2024. 

“Once we do have it up and running, then obviously we have a lot more capacity,” Jansma said. “We’ll be able to fill our big water tower or new ones. It takes a lot of water to fill a big water tower like that.” 

Jansma said water conservation remains an important part of the city’s water usage. She said people should understand how much money, time and work is needed to pump water out of the ground, treat it and get it for people’s use. 

“It is a very important item that everybody needs, but it’s also an expensive one too,” Jansma said.