Big drink of water, half full

South Dakota State Roundup

Published September 1, 2006  | September 2006 issue

The signs of drought in South Dakota are everywhere. But none offers quite as stark a perspective as Lake Oahe, the state's biggest body of water.

When full, the 231-mile lake—the result of damming the Missouri River back in 1958—is the nation's fourth-largest man-made body of water. It normally holds 23 million acre-feet of water (an acre-foot is one foot of water over one acre). Today, it holds less than half that amount—just 11 million acre-feet, according to figures released by the Army Corps of Engineers.

At these levels, Lake Oahe is only four feet short of its record low set two years ago, and a full 43 feet below its record height of nine years ago.

Ronald A. Wirtz