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April 3rd 2018
In Cape Town, parched residents gather at a watering hole
“It’s just good water to drink,” Sabine Heckscher says.
It’s a simple, straightforward statement, but one weighted with relief in Cape Town in 2018. The city is deep into a years-long drought, and water use has been severely limited.
But water flows freely at this spring in Newlands, a suburb near the city’s landmark Table Mountain at the end of a dead-end road lined with homes behind white walls topped with purple flowers.
When Heckscher and her husband started coming here years ago, it was a secluded little corner. But these days, they have a lot of company. It's become a kind of Mecca for middle-class residents feeling constrained by the city's limits on water use.
On a recent Saturday afternoon, dozens of people parked nearby and walked down Kildare Road with buckets, bottles and jerricans, on their way to collect water that gushes out of a white plastic pipe with two dozen openings in it.
Faiek Swartz, 29, filled five bottles and then washed his face beside the tap and took a drink. The water will help top up the meager 13 gallons per day that he, like other Cape Town residents, is allowed to use these days.
Cape Town is suffering the effects of three years of drought. It has been warning residents of what it calls Day Zero, when the city’s taps could run dry. To avoid that extreme scenario, the local government has set tight limits on water use. It’s also hiked water rates: Residents can pay 30 times the standard rate if they use more than their share.
But Swartz said collecting spring water here isn’t only about saving money. He also believes that the water in the spring is cleaner than his water at home. With the reservoirs supplying Cape Town nearly empty, Swartz — like many here — believes his tap water is carrying unhealthy sediment.
“[It’s] kind of a bit dirty,” Swartz said. “One of my flatmates actually had a problem with his stomach due to drinking the water that came out of the tap.”
The city says its water is safe for drinking. But Schwartz said he feels better when he fetches water here. “I think [it’s] much safer and pure to drink.”
After filling his bottles, Schwartz packed them into a black milk crate on his bike and tied them down with twine before pedaling away.
Springs like this one aren’t the only workaround to the water restrictions in Cape Town. Many of the city’s wealthy have invested as much as $15,000 to drill private boreholes into the same deep aquifer that bubbles up here. Meanwhile, a quarter of residents live in townships, where communal taps are still the rule.
But the city’s dozens of open springs provide a measure of relief for many members of the city’s middle class.
Riyaz Rawoot watched people take their turns at the pipes from his perch on a stack of concrete blocks. He’s a physical therapist and he used to come here for just for breaks from his office nearby.
“Who can’t like the setting?” he said. “It’s green, you’ve got a spring, mountain, blue sky.”
But it wasn’t always so easy to collect water here.
The water used to gush out of a pipe “down in the hole there,” Rawoot said. “You can’t see it from here. And you literally had to go down the stairs, bend over, get your legs wet, and then play with a little pipe in order to fill up your can.”
It was Rawoot himself who made the spring more accessible. He’s installed the bigger white plastic pipe and punched it full of holes.
The scene at Newlands can be jarring: water gushing out of the ground in the middle of an epic drought.
“It just runs, you know?” observed retiree Maureen Van Graan.
Van Graan was tipped off to the place by a friend. Now she comes here every week. She lives on a pension and is very careful to avoid those high water rates.
“I only get a certain amount of money in a month. So I can’t pay extra,” she said.
The water collection routine at the spring has become its own little ecosystem. When there are lines, people talk. Freelance porters cart jugs and buckets uphill to people’s cars. And those cars often jam up the neighborhood.
Mark Long, the priest at the St. Andrew’s Church just up the road, said water collectors sometimes fill his church’s parking lot on Sundays. Until recently, they also blocked the road leading to the spring.
“I had some parishioners on the corner who sold their house and moved out because they just couldn’t get out at all,” Long said.
The city has taken some steps to rein in the free-for-all. This Saturday afternoon, police kept people moving and directed cars as they parked.
And Long said there are some positives to this: The porters bring water to the church’s school during the week.
Attitudes can get testy at the spring, though. There can be long lines and arguments over people taking more than their share of water. Long recalled a fight that broke out at 2 a.m., But other times it’s downright pastoral, with a sense of easy camaraderie among those waiting to fill their containers.
Abbas Mustafa sat for a moment to catch his breath after filling 18 bottles. He came here from his home seven miles away to collect water.
“It’s free, you know,” he said. “You save water how much you can until God makes his plan for the rain.”
Feb 9th 2018
Vulnerable fear Cape Town's water shut-off
At Cape Town's Nazareth House, a care home for dozens of vulnerable, disabled and orphaned children, feeding time is executed with military precision.
The youngsters who depend on the Catholic charity's care are fed according to strict instructions on a whiteboard that shows each child's name and how much water they need.
"We make so many bottles a day -- this is such a big place. And before you go to each child, you need to wash your hands," care assistant Carmilla Slamdien told AFP as she described the water-intensive routine of feeding, washing and sterilisation.
Nazareth House's residents are among the city's most vulnerable people.
They now face the prospect that their taps will be shut off within months as the three-year-long drought -- the worst in more than a century -- leaves reservoirs empty.
"Is there a plan? No. I can't think of how we'll do it after 'Day Zero'," said Slamdien, referring to the day when ordinary water supplies to more than a million homes will be shut off, currently forecast for May 11.
For Zone Janse Van Rensburg, an occupational therapist at the home who is eight months pregnant, "Day Zero" could bring real hardship.
Most Cape Town residents will be forced to queue at communal taps at 200 water points -- likely under police or military guard -- to collect a daily ration of 25 litres (6.6 US gallons) or half the amount allowed now.
'Crisis just overwhelming'
"I will have a tiny newborn with no water which will be a massive challenge," said Rensburg, 31.
"I don't know what we'll do. The whole crisis is just overwhelming. When you're pregnant, they say 'don't lift anything' -- but then you're lifting a bucket to flush the toilet."
City councillor J.P. Smith, an official leading Cape Town's drought relief efforts, told AFP that facilities like Nazareth House will instead be supplied by tankers or volunteers carrying bottles -- but many locals have little confidence in authorities.
For many residents in Cape Town's impoverished townships, the state's failure to provide domestic tap water is an established fact of life.
Vuyo Twani was among a steady stream of residents in Langa township this week sharing a tap to fill plastic containers, as well as to wash chicken feet and rinse mops.
"You don't know if there'll be water," said Twani of the three taps that supply several hundred residents.
"If you can't find any water I have to go the Shoprite" supermarket, he added. "That's expensive."
City officials estimate that informal settlement's like Twani's use just five percent of the city's water.
Twani -- who works as a bartender at the five-star Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel in the city centre -- said that he, along with his wife and young daughter, use just 10 litres per day at home.
He doubted that residents of Cape Town's wealthier areas -- which account for more than 65 percent of total consumption -- would cope with water queues and ever stricter limits.
"These people in the suburbs, they're just used to waking up and showering and brushing their teeth," he said, wearing a singlet over his slim frame.
But Twani said guests at his hotel bar are well aware of Cape Town's water crisis.
"Even if we wash the drinks shakers, they'll say 'save water!'," Twani said as he caught the last few drops from the tap.
At the Theewaterskloof dam, an hour-and-a-half from central Cape Town, a once verdant reservoir has given way to a craggy, sun-baked plain of mud pocked with scrub and long cracks.
The reservoir sits exposed to the baking sun and is now only 12.5 percent full. Experts warn that anything below 10 percent is unlikely to be usable.
Back in the city, thousands of Capetonians queue every day to collect fresh water from the Newlands spring, next to a brewery, to supplement their individual 50-litre quotas.
Residents are watched over by a unit of private security guards, deployed in response to recent tensions at the natural spring.
A rigidly-enforced system of limits and a recently implemented express queue have imposed order after a scuffle.
Women wearing expensive floral-print pencil dresses waited alongside young men in labourers' overalls and families with children wearing uniforms from both private and government schools.
"It's not just about the water, it's about the social impact of not having access to a resource," said researcher Fairuz Mullagee, 56, as she filled up at the spring.
"It's going to amplify inequalities... We already experience it here -- the tensions and the conflict."
Feb 3rd 2018
Day Zero: what happens when Cape Town turns off its taps?
The head of Cape Town’s disaster operations centre is drawing up a plan he hopes he never has to implement as this South African city on the frontline of climate change prepares to be the first in the world to turn off the water taps.
“We’ve identified four risks: water shortages, sanitation failures, disease outbreaks and anarchy due to competition for scarce resources,” says Greg Pillay. “We had to go back to the drawing board. We were prepared for disruption of supply, but not a no-water scenario. In my 40 years in emergency services, this is the biggest crisis.”
The plan – being drawn up with the emergency services, the military, epidemiologists and other health experts – is geared towards Day Zero, the apocalyptically named point when water in the six-dam reservoir system falls to 13.5% of capacity.
At this critical level – currently forecast for 16 April – piped supply will be deemed to have failed and the city will dispatch teams of engineers to close the valves to about a million homes – 75% of the city.
“It’s going to be terrifying for many people when they turn on the tap and nothing comes out,” says Christine Colvin, freshwater manager for WWF and a member of the mayor’s advisory board.
In place of piped water, the city will establish 200 water collection points, scattered around the city to ensure the legally guaranteed minimum of 25 litres per person per day within 200 metres of every citizen’s home.
This will be a major burden on municipal coffers. The estimated cost of installing and running the new system for three months is 200m rand (£12m). Instead of selling water, it will be given away for free, which will mean R1.4bn in lost revenue.
“The total city budget is R40bn, so this won’t destroy us, but it will cause severe discomfort,” says the deputy mayor, Ian Neilson, who adds that he has not had a bath at home for a year. “A bigger concern is to ensure the economy doesn’t collapse. We need to keep business and jobs going … Clearly, there could be a severe impact. It depends on how long it continues.”
Neilson stresses that Day Zero can be avoided. A lowering of pipe pressure and a public information campaign to conserve water have cut the city’s daily water consumption from 1,200 million litres to 540 million litres. If this can be pushed down another 25%, the taps should stay open to the start of the rainy season in May.
But this is no guarantee. Three consecutive years of drought have made a mockery of normal seasonal patterns.
“We’re in a critical transition period where the past is no longer an accurate guide to the future,” says Colvin.
She illustrates her point with two maps. One – based on historical data – shows the water risk of Cape Town is green, meaning it is among the lowest in South Africa. The other – based on future climate projections – is almost the complete opposite, with the city located in a middle of an alarming red heat zone.
“What we didn’t know was when that future would arrive,” says Colvin. “Businesses and investors have heard the long-term projections but they haven’t heard the starting gun go off. If this drought can pull the trigger then that could be a good thing. If this is seen as a pressure test for the new normal, it will help us to adapt.”
The government has struggled to keep pace. Plans to make the city more resilient to climate change by diversifying the water supply with boreholes and desalination plants were not due to kick in until after 2020. But the climate has moved faster, bringing a drought so severe it would usually be expected only once every 384 years.
Dam today, gone tomorrow
What was the biggest reservoir in the system – Theewaterskloof Dam – has mostly evaporated or been sucked dry.
One side of the lake is now a desert. Devoid of life, this is a landscape of sand dunes, cracked earth and dead trees. It takes more than 30 minutes walk under a burning sun to reach the last pool of water, which is barely wide enough to skim a stone across. In what looks like a dark failure of evolution, it is ringed by the carcasses of stranded fish.
On the other side, by the dam wall, the water is nearly 10 metres deep, but the shoreline is receding at the rate of the 1.2m a week, leaving the bed exposed to the sun. The afternoon winds once attracted sail boats; now they whip up white dust storms that envelop much of the valley.
“The change is visible by the week,” said Paul Furstenburg, restaurant manager at Theewater sports club. “When I arrived here four years ago, it was like a sea,” he says, pointing to photographs on the walls of high waves crashing up to the car park during a storm and dozens of boats sailing in regattas. Now, the shoreline is more than 100m back and one of the three small vessels left in the water is stranded on a sandbank. The club – which would normally be thronged with sailors, water-skiers, swimmers, campers and fishermen – is almost empty. The revenue has dried up too, leaving the 20 staff worried about their futures. “This has gone from a holiday resort to nothing,” says Errol Nichols, the safety officer. “It has become a desolate place.”
In Cape Town itself, the population is jittery. “We’re scared,” says Amirah Armien as she queues to fill a couple of bottles at the spring beside Newlands Brewery. “Water is life. What are we going to do without water?”
After a run on bottled water last month, supermarkets introduced limits for each customer. Hardware shops have sold out of water tanks and pool covers. Borehole drillers are now so overwhelmed with requests that there is a year-long wait. Even dehumidifiers – which are being marketed as “water from air” devices – are out of stock.
“People are freaking out,” said David Gwynne-Evans, a botanist. “You go to the shops and see people buying 20 bottles of water. It’s a ridiculous increase of disposable plastic.”
He believes Cape Town’s vineyards bear a large share of blame because they are water-intensive yet they have continued to expand during the drought. “Wine is a luxury. We shouldn’t be using water for that, yet even now new vineyards are opening.”
‘We’re scared … water is life’
The crisis has exacerbated prejudice and division. One homophobic pastor blames the drought on gays and lesbians. There has also been sharp criticism of the government, and feuds between the national and provincial authorities over the handling of the crisis.
Yet – among the broader populace – efforts to avert Day Zero have been successfully ramped up.
Many hotels have removed the plugs from rooms so guests must have a shower rather than a bath. Blue droplet-shaped signs above office toilet sinks remind users “Conserve H2O. Use sparingly.” There are more signs in the cubicles, which are divided into “No 1” and “No 2” toilets to ensure maximum efficiency. Some shopping malls have turned off the taps and installed hand-sanitiser dispensers.
Joggers who go out at 5am hear the 'phut phut' of sprinklers being used to water lawns before most people are awake
At an individual level, the learning curve has been steep. Civic-minded Capetonians have become accustomed to showering – or just ladling hot water – in a baby bath that collects the run-off so that it can be used in first the washing machine and then the toilet.
A major topic of conversation for Capetonians is how many litres they use and how long they can go without washing their hair or flushing.
“I’ve never talked about toilets so much,” says Fiona Kinsey, a young office worker. “Last year, we were discussing whether it was OK to wee in a public toilet and not flush. Now we are way beyond that.”
Shame is used to maintain discipline. An online water consumption map allows neighbours to check on each other’s usage. Some sports clubs have installed buzzers on their showers that embarrass people who linger under the water for more than two minutes.
There is a positive aspect to this sudden shock. Many people are happy to see a greater awareness of conservation and consumption inequality. Social activists say the rich are experiencing what life has always been like in poor townships, where many residents are used to lining up at standpipes.
“Using washing water to flush the toilet is what people in townships do all the time,” says Makoma Lekalakala, director of Earthlife Africa. “So is washing with buckets and scuttles. I had my first shower when I was in my 20s.”
Dee Watson, a teacher, describes the situation as a “euphoric stage” in which most people are looking out for others in a positive way.
“What’s amazing is to mix and talk in the queue with every strata of society. We all need water so it brings people together,” says Watson. “For now at least, most people are laughing and joking. But it’s scary that some people are being greedy and panic-buying.”
There have been acts of benevolence. At the start of the drought, Newlands spring – where water flows freely from underground – was a site of mud, crowds and chaos as people jostled to get at the taps and informal labourers competed to carry water for tips.
“People were getting hurt,” remembers Riyaz Rawoot, a local resident who says he spent R25,000 from his own pocket to organise the spring with the construction of multiple access points and provision of uniforms for the water carriers.
“I’m not making any money. I just want to be of service. Until now it has been fun, but it is becoming more stressful as more people come,” he says. “I’m worried about Day Zero. People are scared and they don’t trust the government, so they might panic and try to get water any way they can.”
Neighbours are already unhappy that their previously quiet street is now a hive of activity, with people carrying water containers in squeaky shopping trolleys back and forth from the spring to cars parked along the main road. “It’s a nightmare,” says one of the residents of the Cresswell House senior citizens’ community. “They come all through the night. It’s so noisy we can’t sleep.”
It is also far from clear that drought is a social leveller. Wealthy homeowners have drilled boreholes and invested in water tanks so they have an independent supply. Joggers who go out at 5am say they can hear the “phut phut” of sprinklers being used to water lawns before most people are awake. Some residents have called environmental groups to complain their neighbours are filling swimming pools.
At the other end of the income spectrum, there are worries. The government has promised that standpipes will continue to flow in informal settlements after Day Zero, but there is scepticism in the Kanini neighbourhood of the Langa township. The one pipe that serves 20 families tailed off here last Thursday without explanation. Some locals feel they are being punished because of a public outcry about the waste at a street car-washing centre at the neighbouring settlement of Joe Slovo.
“I’m worried … everyone is worried. It will be a crisis for us,” says Nowest Nmoni, who makes a living by brewing Umqombothi beer in oil drums. “If we lose water, we lose our income.”
Maintaining social programmes will also be a challenge. City officials say hospitals and prisons will run as normal because they have access to aquifers, but questions remain about 819 schools, half of which do not have boreholes. There would be sanitation risks if their toilets were unable to flush, but the authorities insist they will remain open.
“The objective is no school closures. We don’t want kids on the street compounding issues,” says deputy mayor Neilson.
When the Brazilian city of São Paulo faced drought catastrophe in 2015 the army drew up secret plans to take control of reservoirs and water supplies fearing violent unrest, but officials in Cape Town play down such security fears. Though thousands of South African Defence Force and police personnel will be deployed after Day Zero to guard water distribution centres, reservoirs and other strategic areas, they say, the number of officers at each site will be determined by risk assessments of each location’s past history of protest or gang activity.
“This isn’t going to be martial law. It will be low profile,” says JP Smith, an alderman responsible for safety and security. “There might be some trouble about people cutting queues, but I don’t foresee a big increase in crime. The bigger problem will be congestion.”
For him, it is a moot point. He believes Day Zero will be avoided. The premier of Western Cape, Helen Zille, however, believes there is a 60% chance that it will occur.
While the debate rages about what will happen, who is to blame and whether the city will be drawn together or pulled apart, Pillay and his colleagues at the disaster risk management office are obliged to prepare for the worst – something other cities may soon be obliged to do.
“We don’t want to create panic. We can avert Day Zero,” he says. “We had hoped that rainfall would replenish the dams, but it hasn’t happened. What this signalled to me what that climate change is reality. If you doubted it before, you can’t now.”
Dec 5th 2017
The Kroger Company has recalled Comforts FOR BABY Purified
Water with Fluoride Added 1 GAL (3.78 L) with sell by dates from 4/26/2018 to
10/10/2018, after receiving complaints about mold in the product. Testing by
Kroger has identified the mold as Talaromyces penicillium. The water is sold in
clear containers, but the mold may not be visible with the naked eye.
The FDA is issuing this consumer alert to reach parents and caregivers who may have bought the product, which is intended for infants.
The products were distributed to Kroger stores, including Food 4 Less, Jay C, Jay C Food Plus, Kroger, Kroger Marketplace, Owen’s, Payless Super Market, and Ruler stores in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. The Kroger Company has instructed its stores to remove the recalled product
Nov 21st 2017
Pursuant to a consent decree with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is developing drinking water regulations to protect fetuses and young children from perchlorate, a toxic chemical that inhibits the thyroid's ability to make the hormone T4 essential to brain development. The rulemaking is part of a long process that began in 2011 when the agency made a formal determination that Safe Drinking Water Act standards for perchlorate were needed. Under the consent decree, EPA should propose a standard by October 2018.
In the latest step in that process, EPA's scientists released a draft report in September that, at long last, answers questions posed by its Science Advisory Board in 2013: does perchlorate exposure during the first trimester reduce production of T4 in pregnant women with low iodine consumption? Does reduction in maternal T4 levels in these women adversely affect fetal brain development? According to EPA's scientists, the answers are Yes and Yes.
For several years, EPA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have developed and refined a model that would predict the effect of different doses of perchlorate on levels of T4 in pregnant women. The latest version of the model addresses women during the first trimester, especially those with low iodine intake. This is important because iodine is essential to make T4 (the number four indicates the number of iodine atoms present in the hormone); perchlorate inhibits its transport from the blood into the thyroid. The risk of perchlorate exposure to fetuses in the first trimester is greatest because brain development starts very early and is fully dependent on maternal T4. If the mother gets insufficient iodine to offset the perchlorate inhibition, she will not produce enough T4 for the fetal brain to develop properly. When free T4 (fT4) levels are low but without increase in thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), the condition is known as hypothyroxinemia. When T4 production is lowered further, the pituitary gland releases TSH to increase T4 production by a feedback loop mechanism.
EPA's scientists reviewed 55 research studies and concluded, "Overall, the results of this literature review lend support to the concept that maternal fT4, especially in the hypothyroxinemic range, is critical to the offspring's proper neurodevelopment" and "the impact of altered fT4 is seen even with small incremental changes in fT4 (and in populations with fT4 across the "normal" range)."From the literature search, EPA identified IQ, motor skills, cognitive and language development and reaction time as measurements of neurodevelopment that enable them to quantify the effects of perchlorate exposure in the first trimester.
EPA also estimated the impact of perchlorate exposure in the population of pregnant women in the first trimester and with low iodine consumption; in other words, how many pregnant women will become hypothyroxinemic due to perchlorate exposure thus increasing the risk of adverse neurodevelopmental effects in their children. They predicted that a dose of:
· 0.3-0.4 micrograms of perchlorate per kilogram of body weight/day (µg/kg bw/day) is associated with a one percent increase in pregnant women with hypothyroxinemia; and
· 2.1-2.2 µg/kg bw/day is associated with a five percent increase in pregnant women with hypothyroxinemia.
While these percentages appear small, they represent a significant number of potentially affected children since neurodevelopmental harm is likely irreversible. EPA did not estimate the number of pregnant women or children potentially affected. We did. Based on four million children born in the U.S. each year, an estimated 400,000 were born to women with hypothyroxinemia. A one percent shift in the population of women with hypothyroxinemia associated with perchlorate exposure would correspond to an increase of 4,000 impacted children; if there is a five percent shift, the number of impacted children born to hypothyroxinemic mothers would increase to 20,000.
The agency is accepting public comments until Nov. 20, 2017 and will convene a peer review panel to review its findings in January 2018. After considering the panel's feedback, EPA will develop a Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG) and, eventually, a drinking water standard for perchlorate. The model's conclusions and identification of a new reference dose are also expected to inform EPA's standards for hypochlorite bleach to limit degradation to perchlorate and FDA's assessment of its decision to allow perchlorate to be added to plastic packaging and food handling equipment at concentrations as high as 1.2 percent.
EDF and NRDC submitted joint comments to EPA supporting the draft report and its analysis. We also made the following general observations:
· Incremental changes in free T4 (fT4) are fundamental: Critical neurodevelopmental adverse effects could be missed by measuring full range maternal fT4. Windows of susceptibility are common in all organs during development. Hormonal control of brain development is no exception. Therefore, adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes will vary based on the time and duration of decreases in fT4 levels. We appreciate seeing the agency building a model based on this fundamental principle of developmental biology.
· EPA's scientists provide an essential service: Academic researchers laid a solid foundation for the analysis. Without their work, typically funded by government grants, we would not have the evidence necessary to recognize the harm from perchlorate at the levels under consideration. But it took the independent scientists at EPA, building on a model developed by FDA, to provide the objective rigorous review of the evidence and adapt the model.
· The peer-review process works: The agency rose to the challenge of two previous peer-review panels, one established by EPA's Science Advisory Board and the other by EPA's Office of Water. The panels operated in a transparent process and provided independent and objective review of the analysis by EPA, and we expect that this third and final panel will do the same. However, the integrity of the process depends on credibility of the experts on the panel. Screening out these experts because they receive government funding as EPA is now doing is irresponsible. It undermines the quality of the review and the credibility of the process.
August 7th 2017
If only we could prevent climate change
We are all was advised to avoid drinking-water-contamination and drink plenty of clean water and this is a good idea if the water you are drinking is not contaminated and unsafe to drink, you may think, just give me clean water.
But actually distilled water is not at all pleasant to drink, it needs some natural minerals to make it palatable.
If you live in a country where you can normally turn on the tap and drink the water you are very fortunate, because not all the world is like this, in many places it is a constant struggle to find fresh water that is fit to drink.
Let us spare a thought for the poor souls living in a hot dry country in the third world, they have no toilets and if no running water and have to rely on wells or contaminated water sources for every drop of water they consume.
They sometimes have to walk miles to fill their containers and miles back carrying their load, a terrible task made worse if you’re not getting enough to eat and are undernourished
There are some charities in the developed countries that are making some efforts to provide assistance, they build toilets, drill wells and if possible pipe in running water.
I believe one of these is called the http://www.wateraid.org/ and I know there are several others which I will happily link to if you provide their details.
The standard of tap water in all countries is not the same, you may go on holiday to a country that has tap water that is tolerable for the locals to drink, but unless you are sure you should drink only bottled water.
Reservoirs are rarely contaminated by humans but it is not uncommon for such things as algae blooms to poison the water particularly in hot weather.
Water companies take great care to deliver to your tap water that is healthy and fit to drink, they use various filtration methods to avoid drinking-water-contamination.
And in some cases they have live fish monitoring the health of the water in special sampling tanks.
Fortunately with modern communication systems these dangerous situations can be monitored easily and warnings issued by local government, civil defense, police, local radio and television.