OPINION: Amazon’s Data Center Tax Break Another Slap In The Face For Jackson

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Thanks to decades of neglect in Jackson’s infrastructure, safe and clean tap water is often a luxury for
city residents, who have for years endured boil-water orders that ultimately escalated into the crisis that
drew national outrage two years ago. So it was another slap in the face for Jackson residents when state
lawmakers recently gave Amazon a fortune in taxpayer money to build two massive data centers just
outside the city — facilities that could require millions of gallons of water every day.

In January, state legislators hastily approved a $44 million incentive package to seal the deal for
Amazon Web Services to locate the data centers just north of Jackson at a pair of industrial parks in
Madison County. As if that weren’t enough, lawmakers authorized Madison County to borrow $215
million from the state to pay for improvements to roads and the extension of water and sewer
systems. While Amazon will pay this back over time, they get to do it in place of paying taxes to the

Governor Reeves and state lawmakers have since celebrated the deal, calling it the biggest private
investment project in Mississippi’s history. But they are less eager to talk about giving one of the
world’s wealthiest companies a taxpayer-funded handout to build water-hogging facilities at a time
when Jackson residents are still feeling the effects of the recent water crisis — a crisis fueled by an
appalling lack of investment in the region’s infrastructure.

While most people have probably heard about data centers, they may not understand exactly what it
takes to operate these facilities. Data centers are essential for our modern technology needs, such
as cloud computing. They also require massive amounts of resources to operate — not just
electricity, but water for cooling systems that prevent servers from overheating. By some estimates,
large data centers can use a staggering 1 million to 5 million gallons of water daily — equivalent to a
town of 10,000 to 50,000 people.

All of this raises some important questions: Why would the state give Amazon $44 million and a
sweetheart loan to divert so much of the region’s water away from Jackson? Where will the water for
the data centers come from? Most importantly, why not invest this money in the city’s water
infrastructure to help prevent the next major water crisis?

For many long-time Jackson residents, the answer to the last question is steeped in a legacy of
institutionalized neglect in a city where 80 percent of residents are Black. Consistently on the brink of
failure, Jackson’s water system woes date back to the 1880s, when local leaders created a plan to
pump the Pearl River to help combat a fire and authorized a private company to deliver river water
through a network of underground pipes. Advocacy groups like the NAACP and Southern Poverty
Law Center maintain a timeline of the manmade water crisis plaguing residents.

Today, Jackson residents are afraid to use their tap water for washing dishes or brushing their teeth.
Yet, instead of address the problem, Governor Reeves openly talks about how he once helped block
funding for water system repairs in the city. Now, adding insult to injury, the immense amount of
resources that will eventually be required to operate Amazon’s data centers may only make things

While the state has already approved the funding for Amazon, it is not too late for Jackson’s
community leaders and residents to demand answers from lawmakers and Amazon. The city
deserves to know how Amazon’s data centers will affect its infrastructure and what the state and the
company will do to ensure they are not overtaxing a water system that officials have said is on the
brink of collapsing.

The people of Jackson deserve better. Commitments to address the city’s water crisis and build the
necessary infrastructure for long-term solutions must be part of the plans for bringing Amazon’s
resource-straining data centers to the region. Anything less would be yet another symbol of the
institutional neglect for the city’s infrastructure and will have devasting consequences for residents.

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OPINION: Amazon’s Data Center Tax Break Another Slap In The Face For Jackson

By Jackson Advocate News Service
March 22, 2024