Some environmental markers in our state


Growing up on a farm, my sisters and I were raised to leave things better than we found them. This meant taking care of the land, planting trees, maintaining our barn and treating the animals well. We learned in order to enjoy something tomorrow we have to take care of it today.

Judging by the state of our environment, I’d bet a lot of South Dakotans were raised the same way. We’re fortunate to live in a place where we enjoy clean air and safe drinking water, and where we’re able to take advantage of renewables. 

If you’ve ever visited other countries or large metro areas in the U.S., it’s pretty clear that South Dakota’s air is relatively clean. In fact, we have one of the best clean air records in the nation. South Dakota meets all EPA air quality standards all across the state. Since the federal standards were first established under the Clean Air Act of 1970, South Dakota is one of just five states in the country that has never had a “nonattainment area” – an area where standards are not met. As another indicator, the American Lung Association rates the Black Hills region among its first-place winners for cleanest metro areas in the country for ozone.

South Dakota also has a stellar record when it comes to drinking water. Our state’s drinking water program is one of only a few in the nation to be implementing all of the EPA’s drinking water standards. Additionally, our community water systems have surpassed the EPA’s goal of having 95 percent of regulated systems meet all health-based standards for each year, with 98.9 percent of our systems attaining that goal.

And we’re a state that utilizes renewable energy. On average, over 30 percent of South Dakota’s power generation comes from wind power. In fact, if you add hydropower generated in South Dakota, we generate over 70 percent of our power from renewables. Our state is also a top producer of ethanol, and in state government, we are using E-10, E-30 and E-85 to power our state fleet.

Can South Dakota improve? Yes. We need to do more to improve our surface water quality. But we can still be proud of our air and drinking water. 

Linda and I built our home on the farm where I was raised, and once we’re done serving as governor and first lady, we’ll return there. The farm remains nice to this day, with many trees. I’ve got some deferred maintenance to address, but thanks to many years of good stewardship, it’s a place Linda and I will be able to enjoy well into the future. I’m grateful that through the efforts of generations of conscientious South Dakotans, the same can be said of our air and drinking water.

—By Gov. Dennis Daugaard