Conference explores the story of water in North Dakota

BISMARCK—From devastating droughts to ferocious floods, water has played a critical role in shaping North Dakota’s history.

A conference this week in Bismarck will explore that history in an effort to improve the future.

“Too Much or Too Little: The Story of Water in North Dakota” is the theme of this year’s Governor’s Conference on North Dakota History. The annual event will take place Friday and Saturday at the Bismarck Civic Center.

Conference coordinator Erik Holland said the topic was selected 18 months ago, but the discussion is timely after this year’s statewide flooding.

“As people listen to the speakers at our conference, we hope that when they begin to make decisions for the future related to water in North Dakota, they are able to have some of that historical perspective and make good long-term decisions,” said Holland, curator of education for the State Historical Society of North Dakota.

The conference begins with a geological perspective and covers issues ranging from North Dakota’s water resource management in the 1930s to the influence of evolving national environmental policies on water management.

State Engineer Todd Sando will discuss the water management challenges that North Dakota has faced and will face in the months and years ahead.

Former Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., is the keynote speaker and will deliver his address, “The Long, Tough Battle Between Mother Nature and North Dakota” on Friday night.

Other speakers include former Gov. Allen Olson, American Indian relations specialist and retired National Park Service superintendent Gerard Baker, and State Flood Recovery Coordinator Murray Sagsveen.

North Dakota Water Users Association Executive Vice President Michael Dwyer will moderate a panel discussion about North Dakota’s water use.

“Water has such a rich history, and so it’s exciting that they’ve chosen this topic for a history conference,” he said. “The current water issues are woven into the historical water issues. It will be very educational.”

For more information about the conference, visit