Frequent water shortages and contamination have troubled Jackson, Mississippi, for years. A leaking water main located under the Colonial Country Club golf course, which had been leaking since 2016, was one of the biggest issues fueling the water crisis.
Affecting one of the main pipes carrying water from the local treatment plant to the rest of the city, the leak resulted in the loss of 5 million gallons of water per day. This leak alone could have supplied water to 50,000 people every day. With pipes over 100 years old, the aging water system in Jackson was prone to breaking, causing further water shortages.
There was a severe impact on the residents of Jackson due to water problems. Residents received frequent “boil notices”, warning them that the tap water is unsafe to consume without boiling first. Moreover, the Jacksonians had, on some occasions, no tap water available at all.
In preparation for these crises, the residents had to stockpile bottled water. Not unique to Jackson, these water shortages and contamination have been felt by other parts of the US, such as California, which has had prolonged droughts and water pollution incidents, leading to increased water costs and potential long-term effects on agriculture and food prices.
In order to address the water issues, efforts are being made in Jackson. In 2022, the Justice Department ordered the city to bring in an outside manager for the water department to improve management. Beginning with the Colonial Country Club leak, repairs have started, supported by federal funds.
A $115 million federal funding allocation was announced by the Biden Administration and Environmental Agency (EPA ) to address Jackson’s water system problems. This is the first installment of a promised $600 million boost from Washington to fix the water supply system in the Mississippi capital.
Ted Henifin, a third-party water manager, has been overseeing repairs on the aging infrastructure and addressing the city’s outstanding debt of $280 million related to the water system.
The EPA assistant administrator, Radhika Fox, emphasized that the initial investment of $115 million would provide much-needed stability to the people of Jackson, with the aim of resolving leaks and making additional investments in the operation and maintenance of the system.
Already, improvements have been seen in the operation and maintenance of the water treatment plant, which was the source of the water crisis in Jackson. The investments and ongoing operations have generated optimism as lawmakers, like state Rep. Chris Bell, expect the investments to revitalize the troubled city and help restore its economy.
The repairs and upgrades to the water system in Jackson are expected to be a long-term process, but the initial federal funding and the attention given to the issue have provided hope for the residents.