Jackson Flooding: Water and the Grave Global Climate Crisis
This article was written as an act of gratitude and support for the team at JUST Water, and was not paid for in any way. Please visit their website to learn more about their efforts to address the plastic pollution problem, the clean water crisis, and other issues affecting our fragile home.
Photographs courtesy of Operation Good Jackson, MS
Jackson’s dilapidated water infrastructure has buckled under the pressure of recent heavy rainfalls and flooding rivers, leaving around 150,000 residents without clean drinking water, and sending a grave warning to other American communities: you could be next.
Residents of Mississippi’s capital were already under a ‘boil water notice’ before the torrential rains hit, overwhelming a system that has been in desperate need of investment and maintenance for decades.
On Tuesday 30th August, President Biden gave the green light to an emergency declaration for Jackson’s water crisis, freeing up additional federal resources to support local and state officials in managing the disaster. According to White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, personnel have been deployed to Mississippi’s emergency operations center by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Increasing impacts of climate change crisis
Jackson has been battling with poor water quality and a crumbling system for decades, but the current crisis was brought about by a month of relentless, historic rainfall. The city’s Pearl River swelled beyond flood stage, water seeped into the streets, and Jackson’s water treatment plant was beyond strained, with pump failures adding to the chaos.
When a water system infrastructure – such as Jackson’s – is in a state of disrepair, it is already vulnerable to contaminants that threaten the safety of the water. When a drop in water pressure is added to the mix, the likelihood of chemicals and other toxins leaching into the drinking water supply is significantly amplified.
While the Jackson water crisis may be the story currently making the headlines, it’s not the only climate-related disaster the U.S. is facing; recently, over the course of five weeks, five thousand-year rain events have ravaged other regions, including Dallas and St. Louis.
And it’s not only historic rainfall levels that threaten our water systems. After the deadly 2018 fires ravaged the Californian town of Paradise, its drinking water was contaminated with hazardous substances after the rains came and flushed burned debris into the local waterways.
Getting water to Jackson residents
As Jackson residents struggle with no clean, drinkable water, the Mississippi Rapid Response Coalition (comprising over 30 organizations dotted throughout the state) is seeking donations to provide water to residents, working together with the local government and with a target of $2 million.
The Coalition is also not holding back in their distress on behalf of the Jackson people. In a recent press release, it stated, ‘after more than five decades of neglect by the state, residents in older cities, like Jackson, have been forced to carry the financial burden of fragile infrastructure and have been exposed regularly to the health risks associated with the need for constant repair.’
The statement went on to outline that, for 225 days during 2021, Jackson residents were living under boil water requirements, thus impacting the quality of life and economy of an already under-resourced city and its residents.
Many neighboring organizations, towns, and states are helping to support Jackson by sending in vitally needed drinking water supplies, and volunteers are arranging deliveries for those that cannot reach designated distribution sites.
Additionally, businesses from far and wide are aiding the recovery effort by donating what they can. Eco-friendly company JUST Water (founded in 2015 by actor Jaden Smith) have donated 20 pallets of clean, mountain spring water, sending the aid to Operation Good, a nonprofit organization working tirelessly to support Jackson’s relief efforts..
CEO of JUST, Will Holsworth, says, ‘This was a decision that any human being would have made. An entire population of people don’t have safe water to drink, and our business is built to provide some of the best water on the planet to the population. We are in a unique and qualified position to help, how could you possibly look the other way?’
A warning to other US communities
The disaster currently facing Jackson residents is evidently a stern warning to other communities throughout the U.S., with so many others also battling with failing water systems.
According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, they have serious concerns regarding the state of the nation’s drinking water infrastructure, having given it a C-minus on its most recent report.
The assessment reported that the ‘aging and underfunded’ system is suffering a break in water mains every two minutes, with an estimated treated water loss of 6 billion gallons every single day across the country – enough water to fill more than 9,000 swimming pools.
To add insult to injury, the nation’s stormwater infrastructure is reported in even worse shape, and engineers warn that few of these systems have sufficient funding in place to achieve the improvements necessary to withstand the inevitably increasing flooding that climate change is causing.
Transformational change is urgently needed
With unquestionable climate changes and vastly insignificant works being undertaken to ensure that the nation’s water infrastructure has the capacity to deal with repeated large-scale weather events, it’s evident that something radical needs to change; without considerable redevelopments, crises of this nature will sadly become more and more common.
You can access information on how you can support the Jackson community here.