"Big Companies Cashed In on Mississippi’s Water. Small Towns Paid the Price."

"They vowed to fix water woes and save cities millions. But a Times investigation found the deals racked up debt and left many worse off than before."

"In winter 2021, more than 150,000 people living in Jackson, Miss., were left without running water.

Faucets were dry or dribbling a muddy brown. For weeks, people across the city lost the water they normally relied on to drink, cook and bathe. With no way to flush their toilets, some parents sent their children into the woods to relieve themselves. Businesses closed. Mississippi’s capital effectively shut down.

The following year, at the height of Mississippi’s sweltering summer in August 2022, it would all happen again.

Each time Jackson faced a water crisis, local and state leaders cast blame in familiar directions. Lawmakers criticized city officials for ignoring leaky pipes and failing to collect payments from customers. City officials pointed to Jackson’s shrinking population and decades of economic decline. And they said state officials, mostly white and Republican, had starved the mostly Black, Democratic city of resources.

But the final blow was delivered by Siemens, a giant German corporation that had swept into town in 2010, boldly promising to install modern water meters that would boost revenues and return Jackson’s water system to a moneymaking enterprise that could afford to fix its crumbling infrastructure."

Sarah Fowler reports for the New York Times with photographs by Rory Doyle February 5, 2024.

Source: NYTimes, 02/06/2024