Due to Jackson's water issues, portable toilets are placed outside of Jackson State University's Lee E. Williams Athletic and Assembly Center in Jackson, Miss., Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022. Credit: Eric Shelton/Mississippi Today

Citing low water pressure due to broken pipes near campus, Jackson State University sent an email Monday morning asking students to wait to move into dorms until later this week or this weekend.

Residence halls are scheduled to open tomorrow, Jan. 4, at 4 p.m. 

The request comes after freezing temperatures strained Jackson’s ailing water system over the holiday, causing water line breaks throughout the city and near JSU’s campus. 

“As an update, the City of Jackson continues to make repairs to broken water pipes near campus,” the university wrote. “While we anticipate these repairs should be completed before classes begin on January 9th, our water pressure on campus remains low at this time. For your convenience, students who can are encouraged to arrive in the latter part of the week or weekend.” 

This is the second consecutive semester that JSU has asked students to delay moving into dorms due to water issues on campus. Last fall, in the weeks leading up to the citywide water crisis, JSU postponed move-in for 750 students for two days, citing “unprecedented water pressure issues” affecting water flow on the upper floors of student housing. 

Many students went home during the water crisis last year. Students who stayed on campus had to use portable showers and toilets, and there was no laundry service. 

The city’s water issues have caused periods of low to no water pressure at JSU as far back as 2010. The campus, west of downtown and far from the water treatment plants, relies on some of the oldest pipes in the capital city. 

In recent years, the Jackson State and the Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees have explored moving the campus off the city’s water system, which currently supports heating, cooling, potable and non-potable water, and fire protection systems.

These efforts have, so far, seen little to no success. 

During last year’s legislative session, IHL requested more than $17 million in funds for water-related projects on JSU’s campus. The Legislature did not fulfill those requests.

JSU has requested federal pandemic dollars to pay for a plan to build its own water system, but the state has said the award is not guaranteed. A spokesperson for the Department of Finance and Administration said it has not yet awarded these funds. 

A bill proposed last session by Rep. Angela Cockerham, I-Magnolia, sought $8 million for JSU for costs associated with building a separate water system. It died in committee.

Four Mississippi universities have their own water systems, according to the Institutions of Higher Learning. They include Alcorn State University, Mississippi Valley State University, Mississippi State University, and the University of Mississippi. 

The University of Mississippi Medical Center uses its own water source for about 90% of campus with the remaining coming from the city, IHL’s spokesperson, Caron Blanton, wrote in an email earlier this year.

Correction 1/3/22: This story has been updated to reflect the correct day the email was sent by JSU.

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Molly Minta covers higher education for Mississippi Today. She works in partnership with Open Campus, a nonprofit news organization focused on investigating higher education. Originally from Melbourne Beach, Florida, Molly reported on public housing and prosecutors in her home state and worked as a fact-checker at The Nation before joining Mississippi Today. Her story on Mississippi's only class on critical race theory was a finalist for the Education Writers Association National Awards for Education Reporting in 2023 in the feature reporting category.