As the water crisis in Jackson, Mississippi continues, Republican Governor Tate Reeves thinks he may have a solution: privatizing the city's water services and turning it into a for-profit enterprise.
During a press conference Monday morning, Reeves announced the crisis had improved according to health officials, and that the city may be just days away from being able to lift its boil water ordinance.
Given the improvements, Reeves said he is now eyeing long-term solutions, including leasing the system's management to a private corporation.
Despite improvements, Reeves was careful to point out that Jackson's water system is not yet out of the woods and future problems loom as possibilities.
“We know that it is always possible that there will be more severe challenges. This water system broke over several years and it would be inaccurate to claim it is totally solved in the matter of less than a week."
But he acknowledged that the crisis has been substantially abated.
"We have however reached a place where people in Jackson can trust that water will come out of the faucet, toilets can be flushed and fires can be put out.”
He went on to say that in the long-term, all options for fixing Jackson's water system are being considered, including privatization.
“Privatization is on the table. Having a commission that oversees failed water systems as they have in many states is on the table. I’m open to ideas.”
Jackson Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba opposes the idea of privatization, though he said he is willing to consider a "maintenance agreement" with a private company to alleviate staffing shortages that impact the system.
Reeves criticized Lumumba's handling of the crisis, saying he has failed to deliver a clear plan for how to fix the city's water system so that state and federal governments can fund the improvements, and he expressed doubts in Lumumba and his administration's capability of adequately running the system.
But Reeves' comments left many angry, particularly because he vetoed a bipartisan bill in 2020 to fund improvements to Jackson's system that would have avoided the system's current problems.
And previous privatization measures, most notably a $90 million deal with infrastructure technology company Siemens, only exacerbated the city's water issues, directly leading to the present crisis.
And on Twitter, many were outraged by Reeves' push for privatization.
Jackson has been under a boil water ordinance since July 29 after cloudy water with risk of causing digestive issues was found by the state Health Department.