Combating Water Scarcity Issues in Jackson, Mississippi by Focusing on Health and Wellness

Water scarcity is a growing concern in Jackson, Mississippi, and many other areas worldwide. Water scarcity is an all too familiar issue for the area's residents. Without access to safe and clean water for drinking, irrigation, hygiene, sanitation, and industry, there can be severe consequences not only to businesses but, more importantly, to the health of its residents. Still, there are proactive steps to help address this situation -- starting with focusing on the health and wellness of the community. 

While global initiatives are addressing this serious environmental issue for the world's population, we will look at how business owners, local governments, and health and wellness companies can use local efforts for sustainable water to make positive changes that fight against decreasing water availability. In this post, we will also discuss how Reflect, a Kansas City-based small business, is helping to support these efforts by contributing to increasing access to clean water.

Understanding the Global Water Crisis

The world is facing a severe water crisis, with the global population exceeding seven billion and the demand for clean and safe drinking water growing. The alarming reality is that millions of people lack access to safe water while others take this precious resource for granted. Water conservation has become an urgent priority to address this issue, as we all need to do our part to ensure sufficient water supply for present and future generations.

Nearly two-thirds of the world's population suffers from water scarcity for at least one month a year. Understanding the root causes of this crisis and working collectively to develop sustainable solutions to prevent further water scarcity is essential.

What are the Causes of Water Scarcity?

There are various reasons why water can be scarce, such as high demand from agriculture, poor infrastructure, or inadequate institutional management. This problem is becoming more prevalent globally, with impoverished communities being hit the hardest. Water stress is made worse by many other factors:

  • Climate Change - Climate change is causing water to become less predictable as the amount of water in soil, snow, and ice is decreasing. Better climate resilience practices are necessary to combat this growing threat.
  • No Data or Integrated Management - Integrated water resource management that can balance the needs of communities and the broader economy is complex in many countries due to the lack of well-developed water monitoring systems, especially during times of scarcity.
  • Pollution and Overuse - Pollutants are making their way into water bodies, rendering them no longer safe. This is happening due to industrialization, agricultural runoff, and sewage discharge.

Additionally, around the world, overuse of water resources is leading to the rapid depletion of freshwater sources and compromising everyone's lasting access to freshwater sources. There must be an integrated and inclusive approach to manage this limited resource to prepare for climate change and accommodate a growing population.

What is Severe Water Scarcity?

Access to clean water is a fundamental human need and severe water scarcity affects millions of people around the globe. Water shortages occur when the water demand exceeds the available water resources, leading to a severe drought. This can cause significant problems, including crop failure, famine, and political instability.

In areas where water scarcity is acute, people may have to walk miles to get access to safe water. Necessities like water and sanitation services become challenging without adequate water resources, and waterborne diseases are common. Severe water scarcity is a growing global problem that requires immediate attention and action from governments, organizations, and individuals. While Jackson, Mississippi, may not be classified as an area of severe water scarcity, it's still vital to take action to help conserve this precious resource.

Understanding the Local Water Scarcity Situation in Jackson, Mississippi

For residents of Jackson, Mississippi, access to clean water is a daily struggle. The city has been facing an ongoing water crisis since late August 2022. Heavy rains in late August exacerbated the aging infrastructure, leading to raw water entering the OB Curtis Water Treatment Plant and creating a health hazard for the community. After the Pearl River flooded due to severe storms, the already-frail water system suffered a days-long outage that sparked national outrage and called attention to the city’s water delivery system.

Many residents are forced to make difficult choices, such as using their limited supplies for cooking or bathing. While awareness campaigns are underway, it's clear that more needs to be done to address this urgent issue. 

Examining the Causes of Water Scarcity in Jackson, Mississippi 

Many residents lack access to clean and safe water, and the city's supply is becoming increasingly strained. The causes of this troubling situation are complex and multifaceted, but a few key factors stand out. For one, Jackson's aging infrastructure and inadequate funding have made it difficult for the city to make necessary updates and repairs for lasting solutions so everyone can access safe drinking water.

Perhaps another contributor is wasted water resources in the Jackson, Mississippi water crisis: in 2016, a broken pipe near Hole 4 of the former Colonial Country Club gushed an estimated 5 million gallons of drinking water daily into Purple Creek. According to Jordan Hillman, the chief operating officer of JXN Water, a "leak of that size is probably not uncommon; the time it took to respond to it is very uncommon"

While it's unclear why the leaks were left for so long without being addressed, there's no doubt that the pipe near the golf course is a critical line that serves South Jackson residents - who have suffered continuous boil notices like rolling blackouts. This and many more instances like it in Jackson impact residents, and serious health implications are likely coming if not already here.

The Health Implications of Water Scarcity in Jackson, Mississippi

Water is a fundamental need for every living organism to survive; however, in Jackson, water scarcity is posing continued challenges to the residents of this city. The reduction in water supply and the water shortages can lead to various health implications. Without proper sanitization, hydration, and personal hygiene, vulnerable children and aging individuals will likely suffer from waterborne illnesses and respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases.

Furthermore, hospitals and healthcare facilities may be unable to properly sterilize their equipment or provide crucial handwashing stations due to a decreased water supply, leading to higher infection rates. Additionally, even a slight decrease in the water supply can lead to higher demand and increased prices for essential products such as bottled water, creating financial hardship for anyone, but especially those with a low family income.

Suggested Solutions to Protect Water Resources in Jackson

Jackson is facing a severe threat to its water resources; however, some suggested solutions could help protect these precious resources. One potential solution is for local partners to invest in water conservation measures to reduce water demand. This approach could include measures such as incentivizing the installation of low-flow fixtures or implementing public education campaigns on water-saving habits.

Additionally, building more infrastructure for capturing and storing rainwater and improved sanitation and hygiene education could help mitigate the impact.

Start Community-Owned Water Projects

The lack of access to clean drinking water has had a devastating impact on residents, particularly those from marginalized communities. To address this issue, community-owned water projects offer an innovative solution that could improve access to clean water points while empowering local communities.

Water projects are designed to give local people control over their resources and decision-making power. This could lead to improved access to clean water and increased participation from community members who may have previously been excluded from the decision-making process. Furthermore, such projects could provide economic benefits by creating jobs in the area and increasing tax revenue for local governments.

However, potential challenges associated with community-owned water projects must be addressed for them to succeed. These include securing adequate funding, building infrastructure, overcoming legislative barriers, and ensuring public engagement.

Improve Water Filtration Equipment

The root cause of this crisis is primarily attributed to decades of underinvestment in infrastructure and old and inefficient filtration systems that don't meet current regulatory standards. This has resulted in many issues, such as burst pipes, contaminated water supply, and frozen pipes during freezing temperatures.

To rectify the ongoing water crisis in Jackson, upgrading and improving existing filtration technology can be a potential solution. Advanced filtration options can help make the water cleaner and safer by removing contaminants from drinking water supplies. These systems are designed with advanced features such as carbon filters that remove chlorine from drinking water or reverse osmosis systems that use pressure to force contaminants out of drinking water.

Implementing these new systems can also help improve water quality in affected areas and reduce costs associated with maintenance and repairs while also helping protect public health.

A New Water Czar Could Turn Things Around

The city was compelled by the Justice Department in 2022 to hire an external manager to oversee the operations of the water department. A two-person team has been searching the city for leaks or closed water valves that can affect water pressure under the direction of Ted Henifin, the newly appointed water czar. While his team has been able to turn some valves back on, addressing leaks requires more time and resources.

Mr. Henifin, a retired manager with 40 years of public service experience from a wastewater company serving 1.8 million people, was initially working part-time with a national nonprofit to address water equity issues in Jackson. However, he began living part-time in Mississippi after being appointed by the Justice Department to manage the federal takeover of the water crisis. He eventually moved to the state permanently in January 2023.

How Reflect is Taking Action on Water Scarcity Issues in The Community

Reflect decided to take the initiative and bring clean water to communities struggling with water scarcity. Partnering with the City of Jackson, Reflect pledged to make a difference in the lives of those affected by the lack of access to clean water. We understand that water is a basic human need and that its scarcity affects not just drinking water but also sanitation and hygiene, leading to health issues.

With our commitment to social responsibility and to serve the needs of those struggling individuals, we contributed 10,000 bottles of bottled water to the city to provide some much-needed relief. We hope to further aid the Jackson community with its sanitation solutions and water needs. We invite you to learn more about bringing relief to Jackson residents.

If you're concerned about food and water scarcity in your community, take preventative measures towards combatting these issues by strengthening your physical well-being through supplement use and exercise. Ask that your government officials create longer-term plans for wasteless resource management that enhance access to clean drinking water sources and address problems before they become serious. Protect what is most precious to our community, and let's work together to ensure everyone has access to clean, safe water.