Jackson, Mississippi Is Underwater, but There's Nothing to Drink

The governor declared a state of emergency after flooding rendered much of the capital without running or drinkable water.

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Firefighters and recruits for the Jackson, Miss., Fire Department carry cases of bottled water to residents vehicles, Aug. 18, 2022, as part of the city’s response to longstanding water system problems.
Firefighters and recruits for the Jackson, Miss., Fire Department carry cases of bottled water to residents vehicles, Aug. 18, 2022, as part of the city’s response to longstanding water system problems.
Photo: Rogelio V. Solis (AP)

Jackson, Mississippi is facing down a multifaceted water crisis days after severe flooding from the Pearl River this past weekend rendered much of the city without running or drinkable water.

The overflowing river left more than 180,000 residents without running or drinkable water coming out of the tap, and floodwaters remain as cleanup crews attempt to shore up the damage. Where there is running water, that water isn’t safe to drink due to treatment plant failures. Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency earlier this week in response to the ongoing water issues.

“Please stay safe. Do not drink the water. In too many cases, it is raw water from the reservoir being pushed through the pipes,” Reeves said.

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The water shortage is expected to last for the next few days, according to city officials. There are now water distribution sites set up throughout Jackson, though some of them have already run out of bottles to distribute. Crews are working to fix the failed local water treatment plants. There are long lines at the distribution centers as residents now need to be given water to drink, brush their teeth, and for other necessities. Some schools have held virtual classes, while some restaurants closed for the time being in response to the water shortages. At least one hospital’s air conditioning has failed.

“Until it is fixed, it means we do not have reliable drinking water at scale. It means the city cannot produce enough water to reliably flush toilets, fight fires, and meet other critical needs,” the governor said in an online statement.

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Water issues have plagued Jackson for years. Residents have been asked to boil their tap water before drinking it since July after the Health Department found cloudy water that could cause health issues, the Associated Press reported. According to Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, it will take up to $200 million to fix the city’s water system, but there is only $75 million budgeted for such projects.

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