Residents distribute cases of water at Grove Park Community Center in Jackson, Mississippi, on Sept. 3, 2022 (September 4 in Manila). Jackson is enduring days without clean running water, with authorities urging those who still had supplies to shower with their mouths closed. The city, where 80 percent of the population is Black and poverty is rife, has been experiencing recurring water crises for years. But this week's ordeal plunged Jackson into an emergency, with days of major flooding disrupting the operation of a critical but aging water treatment plant. AFP PHOTO
Residents distribute cases of water at Grove Park Community Center in Jackson, Mississippi, on Sept. 3, 2022 (September 4 in Manila). Jackson is enduring days without clean running water, with authorities urging those who still had supplies to shower with their mouths closed. The city, where 80 percent of the population is Black and poverty is rife, has been experiencing recurring water crises for years. But this week's ordeal plunged Jackson into an emergency, with days of major flooding disrupting the operation of a critical but aging water treatment plant. AFP PHOTO

Jackson, United States: With an increasingly acute crisis leaving many residents of Mississippi's capital without drinkable water, soldiers in fatigues have been called in to help, using forklifts and diggers to unload huge pallets of bottled water for distribution to those in dire need.

The city of Jackson, where 80 percent of the population is Black and poverty is rife, has experienced water crises for years. But this one is particularly severe, with many residents lacking clean running water for nearly a week.

Days of major flooding disrupted the operation of a critical but aging water treatment plant.

So when residents turn on the tap, brown water -- undrinkable, even if boiled -- sometimes sputters out, under very low pressure.

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"At my home the water is running very slowly. It's a horrible situation in the entire city," said Jackson resident Mary Jones, 55.

White House gets involved

"No one seemed to know how to solve the problem. But now that the White House has gotten involved, hopefully we can get some fresh, clean running water again, because this has been going on for years," said Jones, a disabled widow.

"It's utterly ridiculous that we have to go through this."

Indeed, the problem has received the attention of Washington. President Joe Biden has promised federal resources to help Mississippi resolve the crisis.

Major repair work is under way, but for now, people rely on bottled water that arrives stacked high on pallets.

Residents are entitled to two cases each when they go to a distribution center.

"I'm not able to cook like I want to cook, not able to brush my teeth like I want to," said Natina Thompson, a 41-year-old bus driver.

She said she was "eternally grateful" that the National Guard and others were now providing help.

Mary Jones said she goes to several sites around town to get enough water to help older people in her neighborhood who cannot get out.

"You need to sacrifice for our neighbors, you know, because that's what we do in Mississippi," she told Agence France-Presse. "We love each other and we unite (with) each other in any type of situation."

People waiting in long lines in their cars to get water appeared patient.

Many compared their situation to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan from 2014 to 2016. That city's water supply was dangerously contaminated with lead because of mismanagement and neglect.

Echoes of Flint

"I hope we won't be like Flint," said Tracey Edwards, a retiree who blames this mess on city officials.

"We can't drink it. We can't brush our teeth with it. I'm wondering if there's anything hazardous in the water that, long-term, may affect the residents of Jackson," said Edwards.

"That's something we have to be aware of."

Jackson is the largest city in Mississippi, which is one of the poorest US states. City finances are troubled; the tax base shrank for years as many more affluent white residents moved to the suburbs. Today, a quarter of Jackson's residents live in poverty.

One resident who did not wish her name to be used described her daily routine.

"I need some water... because I do have grandchildren and children. And that's why I'm out in this heat trying to get it." AFP