Jackson, Mississippi, experienced frequent water shortages and contamination for years, all while a leaking water main poured five million gallons per day into a nearby stream until finally being repaired.
According to The New York Times, the leak was located under a golf course at the Colonial Country Club and had been there since 2016. It affected one of the two main pipes carrying water from the local treatment plant to the rest of the city, where the pressure was so strong that water from the leak shot into the air like a geyser and carved a swimming pool-sized pit in the ground.
Not only did the country club leak lose enough to supply 50,000 people with water every day, but it was only one of many large leaks affecting Jackson’s aging water system. The New York Times reports that the city’s two water plants were built in the 1910s and 1980s, meaning that many of the pipes the city relies on are over 100 years old and could break at any time.
Why does it matter?
Jackson residents have been experiencing problems with their water for years, according to the Times. They receive frequent “boil notices” — warnings that the tap water is unsafe and should be boiled before use — and at times receive no tap water at all. Many residents stockpile bottled water to prepare for the next crisis. Being without clean drinking water is bad enough, but experiencing these shortages while clean water is being poured out on the ground is especially alarming.
As temperatures rise across the globe, Jackson isn’t the only part of the U.S. experiencing water shortages. California and other western states have been facing a years-long drought, while pollution has affected the water supply in towns like Dimock, Pennsylvania. These shortages lead to increased water costs and may have long-term effects on agriculture that could drive up food prices.
What is being done to fix it?
Until recently, poor management has prevented any real improvement in Jackson, which is why the Justice Department ordered the city to bring in an outside manager for the water department in 2022, the Times reports. Repairs are finally underway, starting with the Colonial Country Club leak and aided by a recent infusion of federal funds.
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