The water crisis in Jackson, Mississippi, has brought global attention to an infrastructure problem that has left some 150,000 residents of the state capital with limited access to one of the basic necessities for almost two months.
Until authorities rushed to fix the system, thousands of people had no running water. There was not enough water to fight the fires. Too little water to flush the toilet. After heavy rains and the overflow of the Pearl River, the antiquated system simply failed.
Unfortunately, Jackson is not unique. There were warnings. A Jackson community group has been providing clean water to parts of the city since 2015.
There is also no long-term solution at hand.
We do not wish such misery on any community. Our neighbors to the north have been crying out for help for years.
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba said deferred maintenance was a major problem, and city officials have asked Mississippi leaders for help in solving the decades-old problem.
Now that the system’s failures are national news, Jackson is attracting a lot of attention — from the Mississippi governor and federal officials, but also from many Louisiana organizations that have joined in donating bottled water and food to affected areas.
We are happy that the Louisianans are helping us. If we’re not careful, however, one or more Louisiana communities could be next.
Our state also has more than a few water treatment systems that are dangerously outdated. A 2017 study by the American Society of Civil Engineers showed that about half of Louisiana’s more than 1,200 water systems were 50 years old or older.
Big cities and small communities are at risk. We’re not talking about the periodic boil water advisories that plague old New Orleans pipes, troublesome as they are. We are talking about total system failure.
It’s not just an urban problem.
Growing areas like St. Tammany Parish face water issues that can get worse as more people move there. immune.
Replacing or upgrading existing parts or entire systems can be prohibitively expensive, a challenge exacerbated in places like Jackson that have seen significant population losses to more prosperous suburbs.
Population loss also affects small communities. In Saint-Joseph, for example, the clientele supporting the system has shrunk so much that the replacement and maintenance of filtration systems, pipes and pumps have been postponed. With fewer people to pay for upgrades, we have dilemmas across the state — and an increasing number of floods and severe storms aren’t helping.
The Louisiana Legislature moved to help in the 2021 session by approving a Department of Health letter-grading system for the state’s 1,200 water systems. This identified specific problems, but little money was then available to help; With new federal funding, Louisiana is now helping water systems fix problems with filtration, towers, pumps and old pipes.
There are far too many water supply systems in need of serious repairs, so new subsidy programs are lagging behind. It would be better to replace the old faulty systems entirely, then budget for updates into the next century.
Today’s grants are too small to be that permanent solution, but while considering how much it would cost, we should also consider the likely costs of continuing to hope for the best.
. Our point view Consider crisis water Jackson as warning for Louisiana nation Our points view