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The 2022 Jackson Water Crisis

The 2022 Jackson water crisis started with the failure of the City’s water plant in August of 2022, following the flooding of the Pearl River after severe storms hit Mississippi. At the time, the O.B. Curtis Water Plant was in a crisis mode, with operations relying on backup pumps due to failures a month earlier. Following this failure, the plant could not provide safe drinking water to the City’s 180,000 residents, which prompted Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves to declare a state of emergency (Nwanaji-Enwerem & Casey, 2022). At the same time, a declaration of the crisis as a federal disaster by President Joe Biden triggered the release of federal aid. The crisis became the focus of a political debate on changing demographics, infrastructure neglect, and racial discrimination. The 2022 Jackson water crisis revealed many interconnected factors that contributed to the breakdown of the water treatment system and its devastating impact on the community.

Several factors contributed to the breakdown of the plant, leading to various health impacts. Although the immediate cause of the breakdown was the flood, pre-existing problems contributed to the crisis considerably. Before the complete system failure in September 2022, flooding had weakened the infrastructure, forcing around 180,000 water utility customers to boil their water for several weeks. After the failure, the City endured a week without running water, significantly impacting the lives of residents who could not fulfill basic tasks, such as flushing toilets. Arguably, the crisis was exacerbated by underfunding and underinvestment in Jackson’s water infrastructure over the decades (Meng, 2022). For a long time, Jackson’s infrastructure deteriorated because local authorities failed to prioritize essential infrastructure expenditures, leaving it unprepared to deal with such problems. With hundreds of boil alerts issued over two years, this negligence violated the Safe Drinking Water Act and posed serious health concerns to the populace. The tragedy had several adverse health effects on the local population. For instance, the residents experienced poor hygiene standards and increased danger of infection and disease transmission due to a lack of running water. Residents struggled to keep themselves and their homes clean or prepare safe food. Thus, the genesis of the crisis was the neglect of the City’s infrastructure.

Jackson residents’ low socioeconomic status and poor access to healthcare compromise their resilience. The underprivileged areas of Jackson have restricted access to resources, especially clean water, due to low income and high poverty rates. Residents struggle to afford alternative water sources, such as bottled water and water filtration systems or get to distribution points due to transportation issues (Meng, 2022). In addition, health concerns during water crises are exacerbated by limited access to medical facilities. It might be difficult for underserved areas to access medical care and preventive services, which delays detecting and treating disorders associated with consuming contaminated water. Therefore, the residents’ low social and economic status reduced their resilience.

Low levels of education and awareness coupled with weak or absent social support networks weaken a population’s resilience. The lack of information and awareness about water contamination risks and proper hygiene practices can hinder the ability of underserved residents to protect themselves and mitigate health risks (Nwanaji-Enwerem & Casey, 2022). Education campaigns and community outreach are essential to ensuring residents have access to accurate information and know how to respond during water crises. Public health nurses may be extremely helpful in educating the public about safe drinking water, good hygiene habits, and the value of emergency preparedness. To empower locals to safeguard their health, they can partner with neighborhood schools, community centers, and faith-based organizations to give information, workshops, and resources (Berberian et al., 2022). Further, the effectiveness of their social support networks has a significant impact on the resilience of marginalized communities. When there is a crisis, the need for community members to distribute necessities, such as bottled water, emphasizes the need for cooperation and communal support. Strong social networks can promote societal resilience and lessen the negative effects of the crisis. Hence, low educational and awareness levels decrease a community’s resilience.

Community engagement and disaster preparedness can increase community resilience in Jackson. Community resilience can be improved by interacting with residents and enabling them to participate actively in decision-making. Public health nurses can lead community gatherings, assist grassroots projects, and encourage locals to express their needs and concerns (Pollock et al., 2019). Interventions can be specifically designed to address the issues encountered by underprivileged communities by incorporating the community. Public health nurses can cultivate partnerships with neighborhood groups, civic leaders, and healthcare providers to increase access to healthcare services during water crises. This may entail setting up mobile health clinics, organizing transportation services, and ensuring that the medical care and materials that vulnerable communities require are provided. On a local level, public health nurses can boost disaster preparedness planning. They can guarantee that vulnerable groups receive emergency response plans by working with emergency management organizations, regional governments, and community organizations (Pollock et al., 2019). They can solve water crises and reduce health effects by arranging alternate water sources, distribution plans, and communication channels. Thus, disaster preparedness can significantly improve community resilience during a crisis.

In conclusion, the Jackson crisis uncovered many related contributory factors and their impacts on the community. Over the years, the neglect of infrastructure maintenance and underfunding of the water system left Jackson ill-prepared to handle a water crisis. The residents’ low socioeconomic status and limited access to healthcare and resources further compromised their resilience. Insufficient education and awareness about water contamination risks and inadequate social support networks also weakened the community’s ability to respond effectively.


Berberian, A.G., Gonzalez, D.J.X. & Cushing, L.J. (2022). Racial disparities in climate change-related health effects in the United States. Curr Envir Health Rpt,9, 451–464.

Meng, Q. (2022). Urban water crisis causes significant public health diseases in Jackson,

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Nwanaji-Enwerem, J. C., & Casey, J. A. (2022). Naming civic health in environmental justice discourse: the Jackson water crisis. Lancet Regional Health. Americas14, 100378.

Pollock, M. J., Wennerstrom, A., True, G., Everett, A., Sugarman, O., Haywood, C., Johnson, A., Meyers, D., Sato, J., Wells, K. B., Arevian, A. C., Massimi, M., Berry, J., Riefberg, L., Onyewuenyi, N., & Springgate, B. (2019). Preparedness and community resilience in disaster-prone areas: Cross-sectoral collaborations in South Louisiana, 2018. American Journal of Public Health109, S309–S315.


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