On March 10, city officials finally lifted the month-long water boil notice for Jackson. Over the past four weeks, many of Jackson’s 300,000 citizens have been without clean running water due to February’s historic winter storm. Winter storm Uri wreaked havoc on Jackson’s dated infrastructure, causing instrument failures at the city’s main water treatment facility and ten sizable water main breaks around the city. During a global pandemic, residents of Jackson had to boil the murky water coming out of their taps and wait hours in lines for bottled water at distribution centers across the city.
Jackson’s water crisis should serve as a warning to the rest of the state. If Mississippi and the federal government fail to invest billions of dollars into our drinking water infrastructure, water crises like the one in Jackson will become more prevalent.
Last year, the American Society of Civil Engineers, rated Mississippi’s drinking water infrastructure a D on an A-F scale. The report recommended that Mississippi work with the federal government to invest over $4.8 billion to fund clean water systems like water treatment facilities, wells and water storage tanks.
According to the ASCE’s report, most of Mississippi’s drinking water infrastructure is past its design life, causing the state to lose nearly 40% of its treated drinking water to leaks and water main breaks. This dated infrastructure has cost Mississippian taxpayers millions of dollars. It also creates a sizable health crisis for Mississippians. Leaks and water main bursts allow for foreign particles to seep into sanitized drinking water. Ingestion of water with foreign particles in it can cause illness and can lead to death in rare cases. The state and federal governments must invest in clean water systems to save taxpayer money and keep residents safe.
They also need to update these systems to prepare for the harsh weather conditions created by climate change. Winter Storm Uri proved that Mississippi’s drinking water infrastructure was outdated and unable to withstand pressure from a severe weather event. As climate change continues to increase, climatologists believe that natural disasters and abnormal storms will become more prevalent. According to the U.S geological survey, an increase in surface temperature will likely increase the amount and intensity of weather events around North America.
Mississippi will likely see more severe hurricanes, tornadoes and winter storms in the coming years. Both the state and the federal government must quickly invest in modern, durable clean water systems to better prepare for the storms of the 21st century to make sure that 300,000 citizens don’t go without clean drinking water for a month because of an uncontrollable weather event.
Access to clean drinking water is a basic human right according to the U.N. We, as Mississippi residents, must demand more funding for our clean water infrastructure from both state and federal governments. Failure to invest and update these systems will lead to future boil notices and more Mississippians without clean drinking water. Please write to your local and national representatives and tell them you want more money designated to clean water infrastructure before we have another water crisis on our hands.
Devin Sullivan is a senior majoring in political science from Manchester, Conn..