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📰 "The Water Crisis in Jackson, Mississippi"

Today, Explained

Photo by Tim Mossholder | Unsplash

Table of Contents

Host: Noel King
Guests: Kobee Vance | Reporter | Mississippi Public Broadcasting &
Darren Olson | Vice Chair | American Society of Civil Engineers
Category: 📰 Category | Water Crisis

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[1:57] KV: "About two weeks ago, we saw a lot of rain come through the southeastern United States and here in Mississippi, a lot of that flooded into the Pearl River, upstream. [...] The Jackson area saw a lot of flooding and with that flooding came a lot of extra chemicals in the water into Jackson's water plant. That meant they had to also raise the amount of treatment processes they were doing on those highly contaminated waters."

[2:30] KV: "The city of Jackson has [...] been understaffed at this water treatment plant for years and years now. [...] And their equipment is exceptionally outdated. And so because of those factors, they just couldn't meet the demands of taking in water, processing it, and then putting it out into the system to maintain that pressure. So they had to decrease their water production in the short term, which couldn't keep up with the demand that Jackson residents needed. And when that happened, we saw water pressure across the city drop as the storage tanks that are used began to drain."

[4:17] KV: "Jackson obviously has a history of racism. So that leads into something called white flight. When a lot of African-Americans moved into the city of Jackson, we began to see a lot of white people that held a majority of the capital [leaving] the city. [...] Over a period of time, the city of Jackson lost their tax base. When that happens, they can't keep doing the same infrastructure updates that they had been doing in the past. [...] They haven't been able to replace pipes in their grounds across the city. These infrastructure failings are something that have compounded over years and years."

[6:16] KV: "The demographics of Jackson is 80% Black and a lot of Jackson residents are also low-income. And with that, it becomes a system that is increasingly putting a large tax burden on not just African-Americans, but people who have very low incomes and live far below the poverty rate."

[7:42] KV: "The city has been providing people with water for a while [...] and now the state has also stepped in. [...] The governor mentioned the other day, it was surpassing 5 million bottles of water passed out within a week. And so with all of that, people are getting the water they need right now, but this is something that has been an issue for so long that people have just gotten used to buying their own water in grocery stores. [...] I've heard families spend a hundred dollars per week just on water for their children."

[10:03] KV: "Currently residents in Jackson do have water pressure. It is tentative because the systems are still very fragile. [...] Currently residents are advised to not drink the water, not even brush their teeth with the water, although they can technically boil it, if they need water to drink in their homes."

[14:36] DO: "There is definitely a water infrastructure problem in the United States. [...] We have aging pipes and we have aging treatment plants that are beyond their useful life. [...] The part that's a little bit new is this climate change aspect to it. We've got this kind of a double whammy situation where we have aging water infrastructure that is now up against more severe storms, more drastic droughts."

[17:45] DO: "In the United States, they estimate that there's about 2.2 million miles of water main [...]. In 2020 it's estimated that about 12,000 miles of pipe were replaced. So that's less than 1% of the total amount of pipe that's in the ground that was able to be replaced in 2020. So you think about how many years it's going to take for us to upgrade all of this water infrastructure."

[18:41] DO: "When this water infrastructure was put in place, much of it was federally funded. [...] Since then, the funding responsibility [...] has shifted from the federal side to really the local side. [...] What it comes down to is a lack of prioritization and a lack of funding to keep up this infrastructure. [...] We're looking at over the next ten years needing $2.6 trillion to get us from where we're at now, which is a C- as an overall grade for infrastructure, up to a B."

[24:03] DO: "We will see more things like Jackson, Mississippi. We're going to see more headlines out West with whole towns or states running out of water. But there's also the economic side of it as well. Every year this is costing the American household over $3,000 in hidden costs for our poor infrastructure. Whether that is having to fix tires, because the roads are in such poor condition that you blew a tire, having to buy bottled water, maybe the electric grid went down and so your refrigerator shut down and you have to buy new food."

Rating: 💧💧💧💧

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🗓️ 09/08/2022
✅ Time saved: 22 min