Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Dear Common Dreams Readers:
Corporations and billionaires have their own media. Shouldn't we? When you “follow the money” that funds our independent journalism, it all leads back to this: people like you. Our supporters are what allows us to produce journalism in the public interest that is beholden only to people, our planet, and the common good. Please support our Mid-Year Campaign so that we always have a newsroom for the people that is funded by the people. Thank you for your support. --Jon Queally, managing editor

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

City Council President Aaron Banks carries bottled water at a local distribution center in Jackson, Mississippi. (Photo: Screengrab from ABC 16 WAPT News)

City Council President Aaron Banks carries bottled water at a local distribution center in Jackson, Mississippi. (Photo: Screengrab from ABC 16 WAPT News)

'It's Like Nobody Cares': After Two Weeks Without Running Water, Jackson, Miss. Pleads for Help

"Water is a basic necessity and it just brought a lot of frustration, anger, and disappointment," said one of the city's residents. "If you don't know when it's coming back, what is being done to help us?"

Kenny Stancil

"It's been two weeks and I know families with infants who don't have water. The city needs help. I'm thankful my water is trickling out enough to flush my toilet but dang. This just needs to be fixed at this point. It just needs to be fixed."

That's what Jamario Townsend, a resident of Jackson, Mississippi, recently posted on the city's Facebook page, according to reporting by The Daily Beast. Tens of thousands of people in Jackson have lacked reliable access to running water for roughly two weeks and remain under a boil-water alert since a pair of mid-February winter storms damaged the capital city's outdated water system, prompting renewed calls for major investments in upgrading infrastructure.

As The Washington Post reported Monday night:

On Feb. 15, residents across Mississippi woke up to a blanket of ice, uncommon in this part of the South. The ice trapped many residents in their homes and rendered roads impassable. Days later, another winter storm made its way through the state, leaving residents in central Mississippi without power and ultimately resulting in six deaths.

While power was eventually restored, the city of Jackson soon faced another problem: lack of running water. On Feb. 17, the system lost power, and officials immediately issued a boil-water notice to 43,000 connections, including households and businesses.

Grocery store shelves had already been picked bare thanks to the ice storm, and bottled water was scarce. Local organizations stepped up to deliver cases of bottled water to those in need.

Two weeks later, many residents still don't have water. Officials say it's impossible to know how many homes are completely without water, as some may have a trickle coming out of their pipes. But Jackson Public Works Director Charles Williams said Monday morning that the current pressure was at 37 pounds per square inch—it's normally between 85 and 90.

Nancy Palmer, an 82-year-old who lives in a senior apartment in northeast Jackson, has lacked running water since February 16. 

"I can't even describe how I feel," she told the Post. "I'm disgusted, despondent, everybody here is. It's like nobody cares. You're just here."

Enrika Williams, a professional chef who lives in south Jackson, told The Daily Beast that many people in the city—home to about 160,000 residents and a poverty rate of close to 27%—cannot afford to buy hundreds of dollars worth of bottled water for cooking, bathing, and laundry.

"Water is a basic necessity and it just brought a lot of frustration, anger, and disappointment," she said. "We aren't out of the woods yet. There's still a lot of people without water."

The Post noted that "water woes aren't new for the city's residents. Boil notices are so common that a T-shirt shop sells items that proclaim 'Welcome to Boil Water Alert Mississippi.'"

But the massive scale of the current crisis is unprecendented. All of Jackson is either without running water or subject to a boil-water notice.

"Usually when we have an outage it's in one neighborhood, so people are used to running over to their friends' house or their auntie's house to take a shower or fill up some jugs," Laurie Bertram Roberts, director of the Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund, told The Daily Beast. "Usually, you can grab your buckets and find some place to fill them, whatever. But when it's the whole damn city?"

Like many residents who are losing patience, Enrika Williams told the news outlet that "there was no plan that we could see. The press conferences were redundant. If you don't know when it's coming back, what is being done to help us?"

In 2014, the city approved a 1% sales tax increase with the goal of improving its aging infrastructure, but that levy raises only $13 million in annual revenue, a tiny fraction of the $2 billion Mayor Chokwe Lumumba says the city needs—not only for the water system but also for making long-term repairs to the sewage system and roads.

"Even with that, we are far and away from the ability to be able to address these issues in a significant way," Lumumba told the Post. The mayor has called for help from the state government, saying "we need direct resources that can come to the city of Jackson."

Mississippi's Republican Gov. Tate Reeves on February 23 tweeted that his administration had obtained tankers "to provide non-potable water for Jackson to jumpstart the system and accelerate the fix" and would deploy the National Guard to assist, adding: "We will restore clean water for the people of Jackson!"

Charles Williams, the city's public works director, told WAPT 16, a local ABC News affiliate, that officials are "trying to get a definitive timeline as to when water will be restored to all or our citizens."

"We know some have been restored and we are pleased with that," he said. "But we’re still heavily concerned about our residents who are in south Jackson. And other little pockets throughout the city. Those residents continue to suffer without water."

Over the weekend, "fed-up locals flooded the city's Facebook page to demand answers," The Daily Beast reported.

"We understand the frustration," said Charles Williams. "We understand the complaints, and sadly, they're right. We are doing everything that we can. We continue to ask for patience, but know that work is being done."

In a statement shared with The Daily Beast, Lumumba said that "our systems were never meant to endure days of ice storms and sub-zero temperatures coupled by road conditions that prevented the delivery of critical supplies."

Reeves appears to concur, saying at a press conference last Tuesday that Jackson's water equipment problems date back to "50 years of negligence and ignoring the challenges of the pipes and the system."

"That 50 years of deferred maintenance is not something that we're going to fix in the next six to eight hours," he added.

The Republican lawmaker's comments could be interpreted as a tacit endorsement of the recently introduced WATER Act, which, as Common Dreams reported last week, seeks to remedy the country's water crisis and ensure guaranteed access to clean and safe drinking water as a human right.

Charles Williams said that without adequate investment, "it's going to happen again. It's just a matter of time."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Just a few days left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

'Witness Intimidation. Clear as Day': Jan. 6 Panel Teases Evidence of Cover-Up Effort

"Add witness tampering to the laundry list of crimes Trump and his allies must be charged with," said professor Robert Reich.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Bombshell After Bombshell' Dropped as Jan. 6 Testimony Homes In On Trump Guilt

"Hutchinson's testimony of the deeply detailed plans of January 6 and the inaction of those in the White House in response to the violence show just how close we came to a coup," said one pro-democracy organizer.

Brett Wilkins ·


Mark Meadows 'Did Seek That Pardon, Yes Ma'am,' Hutchinson Testifies

The former aide confirmed that attorney Rudy Giuliani also sought a presidential pardon related to the January 6 attack.

Jessica Corbett ·


UN Chief Warns of 'Ocean Emergency' as Leaders Confront Biodiversity Loss, Pollution

"We must turn the tide," said Secretary-General António Guterres. "A healthy and productive ocean is vital to our shared future."

Julia Conley ·


'I Don't F—ing Care That They Have Weapons': Trump Wanted Security to Let Armed Supporters March on Capitol

"They're not here to hurt me," Trump said on the day of the January 6 insurrection, testified a former aide to ex-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo