Map: Where ongoing water crises are happening in the US right now

The water crisis in Jackson, Mississippi, is one of many in the US right now.

September 9, 2022, 7:05 PM

Jackson, Mississippi, is not the first U.S. city to have a water crisis – nor is it likely to be the last.

However, the city's crisis has highlighted the ongoing fight for access to clean drinking water, which continues to be at risk for Americans across the country.

Many of the cities or regions experiencing poor water access or conditions are in predominantly Black or Hispanic communities, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Ongoing Water Crisis in U.S. Cities
Ongoing Water Crisis in U.S. Cities
ABC News Photo Illustration

Jackson, Mississippi

Most of the city's 150,000 Jackson residents have been on a boil water notice since July 29 because the state Health Department found cloudy water that could cause digestive problems.

Many were left without any water at all after a major pump at the city’s main treatment facility was damaged in late August. The water crisis was a result of decades-long neglect, with a failing water treatment system that had a history of equipment failures and issues, according to Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba.

The city could not produce water for necessities as important as fighting fires or flushing toilets. Residents lost access to water for roughly a week before water pressure was restored Monday. However, concerns about the water's quality continue.

Lumumba told ABC News Live Prime on Tuesday that Jackson's system is riddled with inequities.

"We suffer in the southern portion of our city most disproportionately," he said. "Some of the most impoverished parts of our city are feeling the brunt of this challenge more consistently and worse off than the rest of our city."

PHOTO: Members of Progressive Morningstar Baptist Church move cases of water following a Sunday morning service in Jackson, Miss., on Sept. 4, 2022.
Members of Progressive Morningstar Baptist Church move cases of water following a Sunday morning service in Jackson, Miss., on Sept. 4, 2022.
Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images

South Texas / Rio Grande Valley

The Rio Grande Valley is facing pressure from an ongoing drought and a looming water shortage, so much so that the threat pushed two county judges to issue disaster declarations in August.

But it's not just the Rio Grande Valley. In early August, Gov. Greg Abbott declared and renewed the disaster status of several counties over the drought. Reservoirs in the area are drying up, threatening the water supply for millions, as well as threatening the billion-dollar agriculture industry in the area.

The Texas Tribune reported that experts say that the region's water supply may dry up by March 2023 for millions of people.

The Falcon Reservoir is currently 15% full, according to the research group Water Data for Texas. However, six months ago, it stood at 23.5%. The Amistad Reservoir is currently 39% full. Six months ago, it was 47% full.

Honolulu

In November 2021, jet fuel leaked from a storage facility operated by the Navy, contaminating the drinking water of local Honolulu residents and sickening hundreds of families.

The Hawaii Department of Health received almost 500 complaints reporting petroleum odors coming from residential tap water supplied by the Navy water system, alongside reports of health issues caused by the contaminated drinking water.

An investigation by the U.S. Pacific Fleet found that the water contamination was a result of the Navy's "ineffective immediate responses" to the fuel releases at Red Hill. It listed the Navy's failures in resolving "deficiencies in the system design and construction, system knowledge and incident response training."

In a survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Hawaii Department of Health, 87% percent of over 2,000 survey participants reported "at least one new or worsening health symptom following exposure to JP-5 jet fuel in the Navy water system." The survey found 37% of respondents sought medical care and 17 people reported being hospitalized overnight.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, many people remain in temporary housing due to the drinking water crisis. Healani Sonoda-Pale, a Hawaii sovereignty activist, says many are still afraid to drink the water. Protestors have called on the Navy to speed up its plan to defuel the facility that sits above the Southern Oʻahu Basal Aquifer.

"The Navy caused this problem," said Blake Converse, rear admiral of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, during a January 2022 hearing on the incident. "We own it. And we're going to fix it."

PHOTO: In this Dec. 9, 2021, file photo, Sailors and Marines assigned to various commands hand out fresh water at the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH) Navy Exchange Mall parking lot in Honolulu.
In this Dec. 9, 2021, file photo, Sailors and Marines assigned to various commands hand out fresh water at the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH) Navy Exchange Mall parking lot in Honolulu.
Chief Mass Communication Specialist Joseph M. Buliavac/U.S. Navy

Las Vegas, New Mexico

The New Mexico city of roughly 13,000 people has been relying on reservoirs that had less than 50 days worth of stored water when Mayor Louie Trujillo declared the emergency in July.

The city's water supply in the Bradner Reservoir had been tainted with large amounts of fire-related debris and ash following the Calf Canyon-Hermits Peak Fire. The large amounts of debris have prevented the city from pulling usable water from it, according to officials.

The countdown dropped to about 20 days of usable water when the city made moves to ensure a nearby lake can be used as a backup water supply with 200 million gallons of water, according to city officials. This supplies the city enough time to find solutions to water quality and accessibility issues.

Baltimore

Baltimore residents have been urged to boil tap water after E. coli was discovered in several West Baltimore locations, affecting more than 1,500 people.

PHOTO: Residents of west Baltimore line up to receive a case of bottled water, on Sept. 6, 2022. City officials began distributing bottled water after harmful levels of E. Coli bacteria were detected in the drinking water.
Residents of west Baltimore line up to receive a case of bottled water, on Sept. 6, 2022. City officials began distributing bottled water after harmful levels of E. Coli bacteria were detected in the drinking water.
Bryan Woolston/AP

While the health department continues to perform leak detection and leak checks in the region, residents continue to haul water bottles and jugs home, with no insight into how long they'll be without safe water.

Benton Harbor, Michigan

Elevated levels of lead have been detected in the Benton Harbor's water system since at least 2018, according to a Natural Resources Defense Council petition filed in September to the Environmental Protection Agency on behalf of local advocacy groups and residents.

The replacement of lead-tainted service lines began under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2021. The contaminated lines were poisoning the predominantly Black community's water supply for years, and residents continue to use bottled water provided by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for cooking, drinking, brushing teeth, rinsing foods and mixing powdered infant formula.

The Whitmer-Gilchrist Administration said it has secured the funding to replace all of the lines in the city.

""Every Michigander deserves safe drinking water, and every community deserves lead-free pipes," said Whitmer in a October 2021 statement. "I'm proud to sign an Executive Directive today that will pursue a whole-of-government approach to protect access to safe drinking water right now and work tirelessly to replace every lead service line in Benton Harbor as soon as possible.

Editor's note: The original version of this story included a housing complex in New York City, where arsenic was reportedly found in the water. The company that provided the testing issued a full retraction of the results on Friday and admitted that it introduced the chemical into the sample during testing, according to a statement from the company and the mayor's office.

ABC News' Nadine El-Bawab, Teddy Grant and Julia Jacobo contributed to this report.

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