Riparian Buffer Implementation & Education Project

Beginning in the glacial deposits of the Prairie Coteau in northeastern South  Dakota the Big Sioux River flows south for over 400 miles. The river and its tributaries drain the most productive farmland in the state. Each year the Big Sioux watershed delivers over 730 billion gallons of water contaminated with sediment, livestock wastes, and farm chemicals on its journey to join the Missouri River.

As it flows downstream the river carries its contaminants through the Sioux Falls, South Dakota metro area with a  population of 260,000, preventing safe recreational use as well as endangering public drinking water. The city has transformed the banks of the river with a greenway of parks, trails,  music venues, and hotels, however, until recently, the quality of the water has not been addressed. Sioux Falls is now actively partnering with the Big Sioux River Watershed Implementation Project to address the impaired status of the river.

The implementation project team created a menu of best management practices (BMP) to address upstream runoff from croplands and cattle operations. An incentive plan for landowners to voluntarily install BMPs is an element of the project. The most successful BMP in the project is the implementation of riparian buffers upstream and within the city.

Friends of the Big Sioux River (FBSR) has partnered with the city of Sioux Falls to install a native prairie riparian buffer along a high traffic downtown walkway. The buffer will slow and filter runoff from local parking lots and streets. It will primarily serve, however, as a demonstration and educational project.  The goal of the project is to educate people on the value of using riparian buffers to prevent runoff of sediments and contaminants into streams and lakes. The implementation of buffers has proven to be the most effective BMP at reducing soil erosion, reducing nutrient runoff, and preventing streambank displacement. It is also the lowest cost preventive water conservation measure. Additional benefits include increased pollinator and wildlife habitat.

This restoration project will educate and inspire residents and visitors on how to reduce runoff in their urban yards as well as rural South Dakota while improving  water quality of the 730 billion gallons of annual flow.

* Project utilizes best management practices to filter and/or reduce pollution inputs into rivers, streams, lakes, wetlands or near-shore marine areas


Sioux Falls, SD

Start Up Date:


Project Benefits:

Community Engagement & Education

Enhancing Recreation & Economic Benefits

Green Infrastructure Investment

Increasing Water Conservation & Efficiency

Water Quality Improvement

Wildlife & Habitat Protection

Project Type:

Pollution Reduction and Filtration *


Funding Needed