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In Jackson, Mississippi, football continues despite the water crisis: NPR

The University of Belhaven football team stand on the sidelines as their game against Millsaps College begins on Thursday.

Leslie Gamboni for NPR


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Leslie Gamboni for NPR


The University of Belhaven football team stand on the sidelines as their game against Millsaps College begins on Thursday.

Leslie Gamboni for NPR

Rain or shine, dry taps or low water pressure, in the South, the game must go on.

Some Jackson, Mississippi residents have been without running water for days, while others have been under a boil water advisory for more than a month. But unreliable water has been a way of life in Jackson for years and it wasn’t enough to stop football fans from seeing the season open up between two Jackson Division III schools – Millsaps College, playing as a home team, and Belhaven University as an away team. crew.

The players’ family members traveled from out of state to support their sons. They also brought crates of water with them after hearing about the intermittent water pressure in the dorms. Flooding in the Pearl River, which runs through Jackson, led to the failure of the city’s main water treatment plant and a rush for drinking water as the system lost pressure.

Millsaps College said Friday night they had good water pressure. But that fluctuated, so the school brought portable toilets and mobile showers in case they needed to be deployed.

Belhaven University football team member Bogan Brewer drinks water on the sidelines during Belhaven’s game against Millsaps College.

Leslie Gamboni for NPR


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Belhaven University football team member Bogan Brewer drinks water on the sidelines during Belhaven’s game against Millsaps College.

Leslie Gamboni for NPR

Once the game started, it was easy to forget about the water crisis. The outside stands were seated by hundreds of fans wearing Belhaven green and gold. A blue Powerade sat under a man’s sneaker while the concession stand sold condensation-covered Dasani water bottles for $3. On the court, the benches were lined with classic green and yellow Gatorade squeeze bottles.

The rare reminder of the city’s water problems came when the game’s announcer thanked Infinite Insurance for providing 37,000 bottles of water to students and players.

Belhaven rookie Alyssa Pearson came out to support her fellow Belhaven athletes after her football team beat Sul Ross State University earlier in the day. Water wasn’t an issue during the game, although the other night it was an issue after the game – after finishing the game she was ready for a quick shower, but discovered that her dorm had no water pressure. She went off campus to clean up.

Belhaven fans cheer in the stands at Belhaven University’s football game against Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi.

Leslie Gamboni for NPR


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Leslie Gamboni for NPR


Belhaven fans cheer in the stands at Belhaven University’s football game against Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi.

Leslie Gamboni for NPR

In Acworth, Georgia, where Pearson is from, boil water advisories are not the norm like in Jackson. It’s been a tough upbringing – not enough for her to consider transferring, but she’s learned what it’s like to brush your teeth with bottled water and wonder what else comes out of the shower head.

“I have no idea if my toilet is going to flush or not today,” Pearson said.

Pit toilet lines are new to Belhaven senior Izzy Erickson, but boil water advisories have been a constant in his four years here. She doesn’t plan on letting the crisis ruin her senior year, but she’s ready to be done with Jackson.

“I know I won’t be living here after college, so I guess I’m looking forward to it,” Erickson said.

Jakuria Ahmed attends the Belhaven University football game with her baby.

Leslie Gamboni for NPR


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Jakuria Ahmed attends the Belhaven University football game with her baby.

Leslie Gamboni for NPR

Other seniors shrug at the low water pressure – just another chance to embrace Belhaven’s edict of overcoming adversity. A baseball player lives off campus and lets his friends enjoy his functional shower when the water flow in the dorm is more of a drip.

Patrick Powe Jr., a senior at Jackson State University, spends his free time delivering water to residents of Jackson’s affordable housing — many residents don’t have cars to get to distribution sites of water while driving or cannot afford gas potentially waiting for hours for pickup.

School sporting events continue throughout Jackson despite the water crisis.

Leslie Gamboni for NPR


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Leslie Gamboni for NPR


School sporting events continue throughout Jackson despite the water crisis.

Leslie Gamboni for NPR

Tonight he is in the stands to support his former high school teammate playing for Belhaven, who won the game 49-1. He’s had to deal with water issues all his life, but part of what makes this crisis different is its duration. Some residents have been on boil water advisories for a month and there is no timeline for repairs. But Powe said that while the city water is still undrinkable for Jackson State’s home opener on Sept. 17, he’ll still be there at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium to cheer on his team.

“I’m always going to be at the Jackson State vet head to toe, cheering on our boys,” he said.