JACKSON, Miss. — Gov. Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency Tuesday, saying an ongoing water crisis in Mississippi’s largest city threatens “critical needs” and has no end in sight.
While Jackson residents are accustomed to water challenges, this current shortage of safe running water is particularly dangerous, he said.
“The is a very different situation from a boil water notice — which is also a serious situation which the residents of Jackson have become tragically numb to,” Reeves said in a prepared statement.
“Until it is fixed, it means we do not have reliable running water at scale. It means the city cannot produce enough water to reliably flush toilets, fight fire and meet other critical needs.”
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba declared a water system emergency Monday evening after flooding from the Pearl River disrupted a major water processing facility.
The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency will take the lead in providing bottled water in this crisis, Reeves said.
“Replacing our largest city’s infrastructure of running water with human distribution is a massively complicated logistical task,” the governor said.
“We need to provide it for up to 180,000 people—for an unknown period of time.”
The city of 150,000 residents, nearly 83% of them Black, has long been plagued by infrastructure issues that have made clean, reliable water a challenge for years.
The Environmental Protection Agency issued a lengthy report in 2020, outlining major shortfalls in Jackson’s water system, which included a failure to replace lead pipes, faulty monitoring equipment and inadequate staffing.
“Please stay safe. Do not drink the water,” Reeves said. “In too many cases, it is raw water from the reservoir being pushed through the pipes. Be smart. Protect yourself and your family.”
The capital city is home to Jackson State University, where the historically Black school’s football team is struggling to prepare for its upcoming season opener due to the water crisis.
The team’s coach, former NFL star Deion Sanders, said the program is in “crisis mode.”
“We don’t have water. Water means we don’t don’t have air conditioning. We can’t use toilets. We have no water. Therefore, we do not have ice, ”Sanders said on his Instagram page of him. “So right now, we are operating in crisis mode.”
The football Hall of Fame member said he’s trying to place his student-athletes in hotels that have running water, ahead of them hitting the road for their game against Florida A&M on Sunday.
The outspoken coach insisted this water crisis won’t stop his team from being “who we desire to be and that’s dominant.”
“The devil is a lie,” Sanders added. “I ain’t going to get us today.”
This is a developing story, please refresh here for updates.
Bracey Harris reported from Jackson and David K. Li and Phil McCausland from New York City.
Phil McCausland contributed.