The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Safe drinking water can’t wait for a crisis

Mississippi National Guardsmen carry cases of drinking water on Sept. 2 to Jackson, Miss., residents' cars at Smith Wills Stadium. (Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press)

Regarding the Sept. 1 front-page article “Water crisis in Miss. exposes another climate vulnerability”:

The federal government cannot wait for catastrophic failures before making the investments necessary for safe water. The water system in Jackson, Miss., has been on the brink of failure for years, with toxic lead pipes and boil orders — but the city’s calls for support were met with resistance at the state level. This intentional disinvestment in a majority Black city is not an isolated occurrence.

As the climate emergency collides with structural racism, Black, Indigenous and other communities of color will continue to suffer from toxic water, service shutoffs and devastating failures unless we act to repair the legacies of harm. We must resist corporate calls for water privatization that would extract profit from devastated communities and exacerbate the crises.

Congress must provide a bold commitment to safe water for every community, with good, family-sustaining jobs for local residents. The bipartisan infrastructure law of 2021 was a down payment on this vision, but it met only 7 percent of what our water systems need. Congress should support legislation such as the Water Act to fully fund our water and investigate civil rights violations in access to safe water, and it must provide direct grants to restore, repair and improve Jackson’s water system.

Mary Grant, Baltimore

The writer is director of public water for all at Food & Water Watch.