• Record rainfall hit Mississippi’s largest city in August.
  • The influx of water slowed operations at a city treatment plant.
  • Water and flooding woes go back decades.

Residents in Jackson, Mississippi, are struggling to find clean water to drink, wash and cook with.

It’s a crisis that goes back decades.

Years of decaying infrastructure, extreme winter weather and flooding have helped push the city’s water system to a point where people sometimes can’t flush toilets or bathe in their own homes.

“The water issues in Jackson really date back to the early ‘80s when they began to notice that there were issues within the infrastructure of the water system,” Ross Reily, a reporter at the Clarion-Ledger, said in an interview Wednesday.

“As we rocked along there would be Band-Aids put on it here and there. And then we got around to 2010 when there was an ice storm … that ended up causing burst pipes all over the city.”

The governor at the time declared a state of emergency over dozens of water main breaks that came after several days of freezing temperatures. Schools and government offices were shut down and businesses closed.

Fast forward to January of 2021, when another round of unusually frigid weather caused the same kinds of problems.

Now, in 2022, it’s flooding, another common problem in the area, that’s exacerbated the years of water problems.

“Here we go again,” Reily said, when asked about the feeling around town. “One of the things we’re talking about now is, ‘How much more can the Jackson area take?’ It feels like it’s going on and on and on.”

JACKSON, MS - AUGUST 31: Ty Carter, with Garrett Enterprises, fills jugs with non-potable water at Forest Hill High School on August 31, 2022 in Jackson, Mississippi. Jackson, Mississippi, the state’s capital, is currently struggling with access to safe drinking water after disruption at a main water processing facility.  (Photo by Brad Vest/Getty Images)

Ty Carter, with Garrett Enterprises, fills jugs with non-potable water at Forest Hill High School on Aug. 31, 2022, in Jackson, Mississippi.

(Brad Vest/Getty Images)

Jackson picked up more than 10 inches of rain from Monday through Thursday of last week, including just over 5 inches last Wednesday alone, weather.com meteorologist Chris Dolce said.

In all, 12.75 inches of rain fell in Jackson in August, making it the city’s wettest August on record. By comparison, Jackson averages about 4.7 inches in a typical August.

The Pearl River crested at 35.37 feet earlier this week, or moderate flood stage. That’s the 14th highest crest on record there.

Homes were spared the worst of the flooding, unlike in 2020 when some 450 residences were damaged by flooding in the Jackson area.

But the city’s OB Curtis Water Treatment Plant was impacted by an influx of rain water that affected the chemical composition needed for treatment, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba told The Associated Press. That slowed down water production at the plant.

A boil water notice was issued.

Water pressure dropped.

Residents shared video of dirty brown water coming out of their taps, and waited in line for hours to pick up bottled water being handed out at pickup points around the city. Water trucks were also brought in for people to fill containers.

“You go to any store around here, there’s no water,” Willie Stewart, who was waiting in one of the water lines Wednesday morning, told Live Storms Media. “Everything you take for granted now you can’t take it for granted because now you don’t have it.”

Gov. Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency for the area Tuesday and President Joe Biden approved a federal disaster declaration.

Even before the most recent flooding, Jackson’s 150,000 residents had been under a boil water notice for weeks. Such notices have been more frequent in recent months, Reily said.

“This is the largest city in Mississippi and we can’t get water to our citizens,” he said. “That in and of itself is a huge thing that we are having to deal with.”

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

An SUV rests in flood waters in this northeast Jackson, Miss., neighborhood, Monday, Aug. 29, 2022. Flooding affected a number neighborhoods that are near the Pearl River. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

An SUV rests in flood waters in this northeast Jackson, Miss., neighborhood, Monday, Aug. 29, 2022. Flooding affected a number neighborhoods that are near the Pearl River. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

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