If you want to blame anyone for the loss of water pressure the last week in Greenville, blame me. I turned the faucet to a dribble, made a video and sent it to some friends saying we’d lost water at about 5 p.m. on Sunday when there were reports of the same happening in other cities.
About 10 minutes later all the pressure was gone, and the joke became reality.
Luckily, we had, earlier that day, washed dishes and filled a few containers with water.
Messages began to flood in from friends in every part of town who were asking if they were the only ones without water. They were not.
Following those messages came the questions. Why is this happening? How could we let this happen? Who is responsible?
As it usually does on social media, the rants became vitriolic towards the people in charge.
Some asked for recall of the mayor. Others wanted people fired over the incident.
The most important question is this, was this situation preventable?
Of course, the situation was preventable.
But, here’s the rub, where does the actual blame lie?
Does the blame lie on the city water department for not ensuring the pumps and related systems are hardened against the cold?
Does the blame lie on those who oversee the electrical power grid to ensure there are no outages?
Does the blame lie on the people in town who turned on their water to avoid frozen pipes?
Does the blame lie squarely on sub-freezing temperatures for an extended period of time?
To all four questions, the answer is “yes it does.”
Our town and many of similar size throughout Mississippi simply aren’t set up for this type of weather.
Why spend the money on snow plowing equipment or more robust water systems when it would be needed once or twice a lifetime?
In the moment, the loss of water is a catastrophic event, but it is one in Greenville that can be rectified.
City crews jumped out of warm beds and worked hard in freezing temperatures to supply us with a critical service, but a water system is a complicated mechanism.
So many parts have to work in harmony for it to do what we take for granted every day.
Restoring that system to prime operating condition is an even more daunting task.
The pumps have to work to supply pressure to the system and fill the overhead tanks at the same time, but when faucets are open in every home it’s like filling a bucket that’s full of holes. You’ve either got to pour really fast to fill the bucket or plug up some of the holes.
Many who saw the statements from Greenville Mayor Errick Simmons regarding the repair of the pumps didn’t believe what they heard.
Why would they? The pumps had been repaired, but the water wasn’t working in their house. They also had friends who lived right outside of town whose water was flowing nicely.
It was simply a matter of time and plugging enough holes in the system for the storage tanks to be completely charged.
But, we all needed to be running some amount of water through our faucets ensure our pipes didn’t burst.
It was a Catch-22. Shut off all the water in every house in Greenville while the system recharges and watch pipes burst all over town, or continually run water thus delaying the full recharge of the system.
At least in my neighborhood, there was enough pressure to fill toilets and take a quick shower (One of the greatest showers in my life) by Thursday morning. Other areas had pressure restored before and others may still not have pressure.
While many will still decry the city’s response to the water problem, we all must remember one thing: We are the government.
There is no larger outside group running this city. Greenville residents alone make the decisions to construct or not our own infrastructure.
If we don’t like it, we should change it. Changes won’t come from ranting on social media or being upset about a once-in-a-lifetime event.
Changes will only come if everyone in town cares about the operation of the city in good times and in bad.
This week was one of those bad times.
Jon Alverson is proud to be the publisher and editor of the Delta Democrat-Times. Write to him at email@example.com or call him at 335-1155.