Living Without Water: A CBS42 News Special Report

News
October 02 2021 06:00 pm

WILCOX COUNTY, Ala — For some families in Alabama, living without access to running water is still a reality.

In Wilcox County, more than 100 people are estimated to be without access to a county water system and have been for decades. A few families are forced to walk to a roadside faucet to fill up plastic jugs with water they use to bathe, drink, and cook their meals.

Some are fortunate enough to be able to afford to dig a well. In one of the poorest areas of the state, that’s not an option. Throughout portions of Wilcox County, you’ll find several families who rely on well water from a nearby loved one or friend.

“We pay taxes and we have been forgotten for years and years and years, and it’s not right,” said Deborah Purnell, a county resident.

The well on Purnell’s land is the source of water for other homes on the property.

“It runs from this house, that house, that house and that house,” Purnell said.

Sometimes finding access to well water can be difficult.

“People these days, they get tired of you getting water from them. They’ll tell you right quick, dig your own well,” said Minnie Jones, another resident of the county who has a well.

Jones tells CBS 42 her daughter is working to save up to dig her own well, but even families with access to well water still have challenges.

“This is totally as you can see, run by electricity, so once that goes out, then we’re out of water until it comes back on,” said Purnell.

For years, Wilcox County Commissioners were either split or against forming a water authority until recently. John Moton and Charles Lawson are two who have been fighting for water since their election.

“Hopefully by next summer we can have water in that area,” said Lawson, who represents the Lamison community.

Commissioners told CBS 42 News that in October they moved $350,000 to the water authority and applied for federal grants.

“As a county, we weren’t able to borrow the money or get the funding from USDA to be able to do the projects needed to extend water throughout the county, so the water authority was our only option,” Moton said.

While some county leaders are hopeful running water will be an option during 2018, some families are skeptical after hearing similar promises in years past.

“To those people that don’t think anything is ever going to happen, we just ask that you be patient, just a little longer now,” Moton said.

For now, residents can only wait and hope for solutions.

“It’s a lifestyle, you need water these days, don’t care what they’re doing, you need water,” Jones said.

Wilcox County is the Governor Kay Ivey’s home county. At a job fair in Bessemer Monday, CBS 42 wanted to ask her what the state could do to help.

Ivey did not go on camera, but responded to a question through a spokesperson:“All Alabamians deserve access to basic necessities including running water. As a native of Wilcox County I am keenly aware of the water needs in my home county. I am committed to helping their efforts with whatever support the state can provide to address this important issue.” – Governor Kay Ivey

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