The O.B. Curtis Water Plant in Jackson. Credit: Alex Rozier/Mississippi Today

When the City of Jackson asked residents to conserve water in late June, it stated that the water department was “anticipating increased water demand as a result of the higher than average temperatures forecast for the next several days.”

Since then, state health department officials clarified that mechanical issues at the plant were the primary reason for the conservation advisory, not the heat. Jackson officials said they issued the advisory because of a recommendation from the health department.

“Heat was not the primary reason for the recommendation,” Mississippi State Department of Health spokesperson Liz Sharlot said in an e-mail. “We have this type of weather every summer. If it was about the heat, the entire state would be affected.”

While initially the city didn’t provide a timetable for how long residents should conserve water, Jackson officials told Mississippi Today on Wednesday that the advisory will “continue during the summer months.”

The city issued the conservation advisory on June 21, three days before it issued a city-wide boil water noticed that lasted for two weeks. Both notices came after the city was forced to lower water pressure because of an ammonia leak and issues with the membrane filters at the O.B. Curtis water treatment plant.

MSDH issued another city-wide boil water notice due to high turbidity when operators used too much lime in the treatment process. Both boil water notices have since been lifted.

City of Jackson spokesperson Justin Vicory echoed that mechanical issues led to the conservation advisory, but added that “higher than average water use” because of the heat was a contributing factor.

“The state Department of Health made the recommendation,” he wrote in an e-mail. “A second recommendation from (MSDH) suggested we issue a boil water notice after the conservation advisory. That advisory was issued with the hope it would reduce ongoing water pressure issues at the plant.”

At the time the advisory was issued, only three of the six membrane trains at O.B. Curtis — part of the plant’s filtering system — were online. But, as of Wednesday, five of the filters were running, city officials said.

Mechanical issues at the O.B. Curtis treatment plant, including the membrane filters, have been a regular issue for the city, including when a winter storm shut down Jackson’s water system in early 2021.

As part of the conservation advisory, the city is asking residents to do the following:

• Do not water lawns between 7 A.M. to 7 P.M.

• Do not wash down sidewalks, driveways, etc.

• Refrain from washing cars

• Reduce draining and refilling of swimming pools

• Only wash full loads of clothes and dishes

• Take showers instead of baths


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Alex Rozier, from New York City, is Mississippi Today’s data and environment reporter. His work has appeared in the Boston Globe, Open Secrets, and on NBC.com. In 2019, Alex was a grantee through the Pulitzer Center’s Connected Coastlines program, which supported his coverage around the impact of climate change on Mississippi fisheries.