Posted on September 6, 2022

“There Are No White People There”: Jackson’s Water Crisis, Explained

Areeba Shah, Salon, September 2, 2022

A combination of poor infrastructure, climate change and racism have long contributed to water issues in Jackson, Miss, and now heavy rainfalls have left close to 150,000 residents without access to safe drinking water.

As recent as July, the city was under a boil-water notice due to high levels of turbidity (cloudiness). This week, flooding from rainfall has caused pump failures for the primary water treatment plant, creating water shortages for two major hospitals and the Jackson Public School District.

Little has been done to restore a deteriorating water system in Jackson, which is 82 percent Black. Extreme weather patterns are now exposing the role racist infrastructure plays in contributing to unequal water systems across the country, in communities that are majority Black.

In a news conference Tuesday, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said the water crisis has developed due to “a set of accumulated problems based on deferred maintenance that has not taken place over decades”. The city has a history of experiencing system-wide failures due to extreme weather.

Last February, winter conditions caused pipes to freeze and lose pressure, leaving many areas without water for several weeks. {snip}

Operation Good Jackson has been distributing water to residents and making sure that people with disabilities as well as the elderly have access to clean water.

Gino Womack, who is the program director of Operation Good, said that no effort has been made to take care of the south side of Jackson – which is majority-Black and impoverished. {snip}


Governor Tate Reeves requested an Emergency Measures Declaration from President Biden to address the water crisis. {snip}


In the past, Mississippi’s Republican governor has blamed systemic failures on the city.

“I do think it’s really important that the city of Jackson start collecting their water bill payments before they start going and asking everyone else to pony up more money,” Reeves said in response to an effort by residents to increase a local tax on themselves. {snip}

Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, a Republican, has echoed similar sentiments saying that the “prime mover” in addressing Jackson’s ongoing water crisis has to be the “city itself.”

“You remember during Kane Ditto’s administration, he did repair work on water and sewer. So what happened since then?” Hosemann said in a recent interview with the Mississippi Free Press. Ditto was the last white mayor of Jackson. He served from 1989 to 1997. Hosemann went on to blame Jackson’s current mayor for failing to make “routine repairs” and begin “major infrastructure projects” to fix the water and sewage systems.


“What we keep preaching to politicians is that the environment in which you raise a child is the attitude you’re going to get from that child,” Womack said. “No one ever thought about upgrading [Jackson’s] infrastructure, mainly because there are no white people there.”