Why are sump pumps running so damn much in Sioux Falls?

Lora Hubbel warned us well over 16 years ago when running against Munson for mayor, she said Sioux Falls will continue to have ‘water issues’ because it is flat. Who knew the voice of reason was the Hubbel-Craft?

So this has been a topic I have been hearing a lot of side talking about. Not just poor, middle-class or richer neighborhoods, but many neighborhoods in Sioux Falls have to run their sump pumps constantly. Some have had to install multiple pumps, some have said they run all the way into December.

I have also heard from developers, plumbers, contractors, city employees, residents even police about why this may be happening (usually in developments that are from the past 20-30 years or older developments that get taken over by big retail and big parking lots).

There has been even multiple reports of city employees even police officers with warrants asking OR telling residents they need to re-plumb.

Why might this be happening?

• There may be as much water running along side the piping that is in the ground as there is in the pipes. When you dig in the ground you make a great path for the water to run. Water always runs along the easiest path. When you dig thru the clay and then backfill with gravel you make a waterway. If your water supply or sewer breaks the water will run the easiest way. When the break is in the street the water may follow your water supply or sewer piping under your house. If you have a sump field, that is a easy path for it to follow.

• When the city looks for sewer leaks. If you watch the sewer department look for a leak they dig a hole and find which way the water is running, Then they dig another hole, and another hole, and another hole until they find where the water quits running outside the piping. Then they go back and dig between the wet hole and the dry hole and repair the leak. When the frost starts to heave the ground or when it goes out is when most of the breaks happen. With this wet year this may be a busy year for water and sewer line breaks.

Is our sewer system upgrades way behind?

Remember Bruce talking about the ’emergency’ of the sewer upgrades? Maybe it is past that point. As we have pointed out, over the past 8 years it was hush, hush, about the sewer upgrades so Bucktooth & Bowlcut could build his palaces of pleasure.

Many residents are being told that the sanitary sewer system just can’t handle all of the water anymore. When the sewer pipe blew up by the prison well over 7 years ago, wasn’t that our freaking warning sign? Instead, they raised water rates so they could hoard $25 million to make a re-finance payment on Lewis & Clark. Shouldn’t we have spent that money elsewhere?

With global warming and all of these 100 year rains almost every weekend during the summer, we best get our water problems under control, or we are screwed.


#1 WaterWaterEverywhere on 12.01.18 at 9:57 pm

How about the developers who are bulldozing over wetlands, backfilling, and building houses on it? It’s why we need to adapt low impact development standards in Sioux Falls. If only developers would embrace it.

I called a city engineer on my neighbor who was constantly pumping, even after weeks without moisture. I was curious what his options were. They informed me our neighborhood is on an old wetland, so the water table is very high, making just a slight rain shower cause pumps to run.

#2 Warren Phear on 12.01.18 at 10:06 pm

I have called SF home most of my life. There were certain housing development areas that should have never been started. SF just spent 11 million on a storm drainage upgrade that always was a mistake in the first place. I’m talking about the area south and west of 41st and Marion. Back in the 60’s that area was a great place to hunt water fowl. There are other areas that are the same. Why are some of these areas even considered for residential development?

#3 l3wis on 12.01.18 at 10:31 pm

Like the Strongtowns peeps suggest, we need to concentrate on more density and redevelopment in our core.

I did hear a ‘rumor’ the other day one of my ideas to make that happen may be negotiated right now, but I can only say that much about it for now.

#4 D@ily Spin on 12.02.18 at 1:45 pm

I spoke with a home owner in a middle low spot of a block. The only choice was to sump pump to the street. City code enforcement repeatedly harassed and recruited neighbors to make complaints. Code enforcement suggested some sort of a piping under the street at major expense. Huh? Install drainage inside under city right of way. One thing citizens should remember is your choice of solution or improvements is best. Ignore the city. Their code people are dumber than a box of rocks. Let them cite you repeatedly (double jeopardy defense). Per city judicial ordinance they can’t sue you. The only entity to worry about is perhaps an obscure private historical society (McKennon Park house).

#5 Taco Bar on 12.02.18 at 10:24 pm

For now, climate change is giving our region more rain, but this is a temporary reality. Eventually, we are all screwed as the excessive moisture in the atmosphere from the melting of the polar ice caps begins to complete.

But what concerns me more, and did not get enough attention I thought, was how the recent federal climate change report mentioned the northern plains will experience an increase in our ozone layer due to climate change causing health issues for humans and animals in our region as a result:


#6 10-90club on 12.03.18 at 7:58 am

it isnt a sewer problem, it isnt a infrastructure problem. were at over 38″ of rain for the year and will likely surpass the annual record. but yet you guys are trying to blame the city.

go back and look at areas where homes are built now days and look what those areas looked like years ago. Lots of wetland sloughs etc.

also its pretty obvious the water table around Sioux Falls is really high. Watch some foundations being dug, in some areas you will hit water at 4ft but somehow you guys will try to pass this off on the city as a problem.

do your homework before you build a lot and look at what these developers are backfilling before they start pouring foundations.

#7 l3wis on 12.03.18 at 9:30 am

LOL. You just pointed out that the city ‘IS’ at fault.

Who approves rezones and plats? City.

Who approves building permits? City.

Who approves annexation? City.

Contractors and developers are out to make a buck, they don’t care what happens after they sell the property, the city on the other hand should know better.

Case in point, Lake Lorraine. Does anyone really believe ANY of those big box retailers will still be there in 10 years? Nope. But the developer doesn’t give a sh*t as long as he can sell today.

#8 Taco Bar on 12.03.18 at 11:14 pm

“Ten years” from now, the only store left will be Dillard’s. Dillard’s is still run by the founding family through its class B stock program. This allows the company to continue to care about its mission, its consumers, and its employees. Unlike most retailers, who are totally beholden to the wishes of Wall Street investment bankers; and then they wonder why they are closing stores and eventually heading to bankruptcy court….. So no wonder Dillard’s is filling bankrupted Younkers shoes, while Younkers is filling out bankruptcy forms…