The Jackson water crisis has been going on for years, but for most of the country, it’s brand new news.
According to locals, the water systems in Jackson, Mississippi should have been replaced in the 1990s. People have dealt with little to no water pressure, or water that needs to be boiled before its safe to drink. A hard freeze in 2021 left tens of thousands without water at all after already-deteriorated pipes froze and cracked.
According to Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, it could cost “billions of dollars” to fix what’s wrong with Jackson’s water. The state is giving its capitol city $31 million, a large chunk of the $75 million apportioned state-wide for water problems but still far, far from enough.
Many attribute Jackson’s poverty to white flight – The mostly white middle and upper class left the city limits for the suburbs after public schools integrated in 1970, and they took their employment opportunities and tax dollars with them. Jackson is now over 80% black, and a quarter of its population lives below the poverty line.
Recent flooding turned the long-standing difficulties into a catastrophe. One of the city’s two water-treatment plants is shut down, and the water system has failed entirely. There is no clean water reaching homes anywhere on the city grid, and they’d already been under a boil-water order for over a month.
Mississippi has declared a statewide emergency over the flooding. President Biden, aside from addressing the immediate crisis, has said he wants to make federal support available for longer term rebuilding efforts to help bring the Jackson water crisis, at last, to an end.
The state’s immediate efforts to help Jackson citizens include hiring more contractors to work in the treatment plant, and trying to replace the main pumps which failed “some time ago,” according to Mississippi gov Tate Reeves.