"Thousands Across Alabama Live Without Access to Public Water"

"In rural Marion County, some residents do the only thing they can think to do: call their legislator and cry."

"MARION COUNTY, Ala.— As often as they can, Michael and Mindy McClung get outside and walk along the quiet roads of their neighborhood. Both educators—Michael at a community college and Mindy at a high school—they talk as they walk. As he often does, Michael soon circles back to Cormac McCarthy, his favorite author. Mindy smiles.

“Can you imagine the lectures I get?” Mindy asks.

Michael carries a short length of PVC pipe in case the loose dogs they encounter begin to fight each other, but soon, with no fight to break up, they stop halfway to the road and point out their saving grace—the only thing keeping the water flowing in their home: a private, drilled well on Mindy’s father’s property.

They’re not alone. In unincorporated Marion County, around 800 to 900 households—approximately 40 percent of all homes—do not have access to public drinking water, according to government estimates, a figure one water expert called “staggering.” But families like the McClungs are faring better than others, said Rep. Tracy Estes, a Republican who represents Marion County in the state legislature.

Across Alabama, around 800,000 people—about 20 percent of the state’s population—rely on private water supplies, like wells, for drinking water, according to state estimates. That reality often has socioeconomic and racial implications, too. In some places, such as Athens, just under 100 miles north of Birmingham, and Prichard, just north of Mobile, most whites have reliable municipal water and sewer service while many Black residents suffer from deteriorated or nonexistent water infrastructure. In rural Marion County, where around 94 percent of residents are white, connections, money and power often determine where the water flows, according to residents."

Lee Hedgepeth reports for Inside Climate News June 10, 2024.

Source: Inside Climate News, 06/11/2024