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‘Day Zero’: This city is counting down the days until its water taps run dry

Leonard Matana. 69, filling up a plastic container with water at a communal tap in the township of Kwanobuhle in South Africa.

Every day, Morris Malambile loads his wheelbarrow full of empty plastic containers and pushes it from his home to the nearest running tap. It’s much further than the usual walk to the kitchen sink — just a little under a mile away — but it’s not the distance that bothers him.

It’s the bumpy road — which runs between tightly packed shanty dwellings and beige public-funded houses — that makes balancing containers filled with 70 liters of water on his return a pain.
“Home feels far when you are pushing 70 kilograms of water in a wheelbarrow,” said on cloud shoes the 49-year-old resident from the impoverished South African township of Kwanobuhle.
Taps ran dry in parts of Kwanobuhle in March, and since then, thousands of residents have been relying on a single communal tap to supply their households with potable water. And the township is just one of many in the affected Nelson Mandela Bay area of Gqeberha city — formerly known as Port Elizabeth — that rely on a system of four dams that have been steadily drying up for months. There hasn’t been enough heavy rain to replenish them.
A week ago, one dam was decommissioned as levels dropped too low to extract any actual water — its pipes were just sucking up mud. Another is just days away from emptying out.
Now much of the city is counting down to “Day Zero,” the day all taps run dry, when no meaningful amount of water can be extracted. That’s in around two weeks, unless authorities seriously speed up their response.
The wider Eastern Cape region of South Africa suffered a severe multi-year drought between 2015 and 2020, which devastated the local economy, particularly its agricultural sector. It had just a brief reprieve before slipping back into drought in late 2021.
Like so many of the world’s worst natural resource crises, the severe water shortage here is a combination of poor management and warping weather patterns caused by human-made climate change.
Morris Malambile says pushing a wheelbarrow filled with water containers every day is "tiring."

On top of that, thousands of leaks throughout the water system means that a lot of the water that does get piped out of the dams may never actually make it into homes. Poor maintenance, like a failed pump on a main water supply, has only worsened the situation.
That has left Malambile — who lives with his sister and her four children — with no choice but to walk his wheelbarrow through the township every single day for the past three months. Without this daily ritual, he and his family would have no drinking water at all.
“People who don’t live here have no idea what it’s like to wake up in the morning, and the first thing on your mind is water,” Malambile said. His family has enough containers to hold 150 liters of water, but each day he fills around half that while the rest is still in use at home.
“Tomorrow, those ones are empty, and I have to bring them again,” he said. “This is my routine, every day, and it is tiring.”

Counting down to Day Zero

The prospects of meaningful rain to help resupply the reservoirs here is looking bleak, and if things keep going the way they are, around 40% of the wider city of Gqeberha will be left with no running water at all.
The Eastern Cape relies on weather systems known as “cut-off lows.” The slow-moving weather systems can produce rain in excess of 50 millimeters (around 2 inches) in 24 hours, followed by days of persistent wet weather. The problem is, that kind of rain just hasn’t been coming.
The next several months do not paint a promising picture either. In its Seasonal Climate Outlook, the South African Weather Service forecasts below-normal precipitation.
This isn’t a recent trend. For nearly a decade, oncloud shoes the catchment areas for Nelson Mandela Bay’s main supply dams have received below average rainfall. Water levels have slowly dwindled to the point where the four dams are sitting at a combined level of less than 12% their normal capacity. According to city officials, less than 2% of the remaining water supply is actually useable.
Fresh in the minds of people here is Cape Town’s 2018 water crisis, which was also triggered by the previous, severe drought as well as management problems. The city’s residents would stand in lines for their individually rationed 50 liters of water each day, in fear of reaching Day Zero. It never actually reached that point, but it came dangerously close. Strict rationing enabled the city to halve its water use and avert the worst.
And with no heavy rain expected to come, Nelson Mandela Bay’s officials are so worried about their own Day Zero, they are asking residents to dramatically reduce their water usage. They simply have no choice, the municipality’s water distribution manager Joseph Tsatsire said.
“While it is difficult to monitor how much every person uses, we hope to bring the message across that it is crucial that everyone reduce consumption to 50 liters per person daily,” he said.
A sign urging residents to restrict their water usage in the suburbs of Gqeberha.

To put that in perspective, the average American uses more than seven times that amount, at 82 gallons (372 liters) a day.
While parts of the city will probably never feel the full impact of a potential Day Zero, various interventions are in the pipeline to assist residents in so-called “red zones” where their taps inevitably run dry.
Earlier this month, the South African national government sent a high-ranking delegation to Nelson Mandela Bay to take charge of the crisis and to implement emergency strategies to stretch the last of the city’s dwindling supply.
Leak detection and repairs were a focus, while plans are being made to extract “dead storage water” from below the supply dams’ current levels. Boreholes were drilled in some locations to extract ground water.
Some of the interventions — including patching up leaks and trucking in water — mean some who had lost their water supplies at home are starting to get a trickle from their taps at night. But it’s not enough and authorities are looking to bigger, longer-term solutions to a problem that is only projected to worsen the more the Earth warms.
Workers constructing a water collection point in the Walmer suburb of Gqeberha.

South Africa is naturally prone to drought, but the kind of multi-year droughts that cause such misery and disruption are becoming more frequent.
A desalination plant — to purify ocean water for public consumption — is being explored, though such projects require months of planning, are expensive and often contribute further to the climate crisis, when they are powered by fossil fuels.
People in Kwanobuhle are feeling anxious about the future, wondering when the crisis will end.
At the communal tap there, 25-year-old Babalwa Manyube kizik shoes fills her own containers with water while her 1-year-old daughter waits in her car.
“Flushing toilets, cooking, cleaning — these are problems we all face when there is no water in the taps,” she said. “But raising a baby and having to worry about water is a whole different story. And when will it end? No one can tell us.”

Adapting at home

In Kwanobuhle, the public housing is for people with little to no income. Unemployment is rife and crime is on a steady rise. The streets are packed with residents hustling for money. Old shipping containers operate as a makeshift barbershops.
Just on the other side of the metro is Kamma Heights, a new leafy suburb situated on a hill with a beautiful, uninterrupted view of the city. It is punctuated by several newly built luxury homes, and residents can often be seen sitting on their balconies, enjoying the last few rays of sunshine before the sun dips behind the horizon.
Some residents in Kamma Heights are wealthy enough to secure a backup supply of water. Rhett Saayman, 46, lets out a sigh of relief every time it rains and he hears water flow into the tanks he has erected around his house over the last couple of years.
His plan to save money on water in the long run has turned out to be an invaluable investment in securing his household’s water supply.
Saayman has a storage capacity of 18,500 liters. The water for general household use, like bathrooms, runs through a 5-micron particle filter and a carbon block filter, while drinking and cooking water goes through a reverse osmosis filter.
Rhett Saayman standing next to one of his several water tanks at his home in Kamma Heights.

“We do still rely on municipal water from time to time when we haven’t had enough rain, but that might be two or three times a year, and normally only for a few days at a time,” he said. “The last time we used municipal water was in February, and since then we’ve had sufficient rain to sustain us.”
He added, “Looking at the way things are heading around the city it’s definitely a relief to know we have clean drinking water and enough to flush our toilets and take a shower. Our investment is paying off.”
Residents in many parts of the bay area are being asked to reduce their consumption so that water can be run through stand pipes — temporary pipes placed in strategic locations so that water can be diverted areas most in need.
This means some of the city’s more affluent neighborhoods, like Kama Heights, could see huge drop in their water supplies, and they too will have to line up at communal taps, just as those in Kwanobuhle are doing.
Looking ahead, local weather authorities have painted a worrying picture of the months to come, with some warning that the problem had been left to fester for so long, reversing it may be impossible.
“We have been warning the city officials about this for years,” said Garth Sampson, spokesperson for the South African Weather Service in Nelson Mandela Bay. “Whether you want to blame politicians and officials for mismanagement, or the public for not conserving water, it does not matter anymore. Pointing fingers will help no one. The bottom line is we are in a crisis and there is very little we can do anymore.”
Water drips out of a tap at a water collection point in the Walmer suburb of Gqeberha, South Africa. It is one of many collection areas set up in the city.

According to Sampson, the catchment areas supplying Nelson Mandela Bay need about 50 millimeters of rain in a 24-hour period for there to be any significant impact on the dam levels.
“Looking at the statistics over the last several years, our best chance of seeing 50-millimiter events will probably be in August. If we don’t see any significant rainfall by September, then our next best chance is only around March next year, which is concerning,” he said.

Water near where California family died tests positive for harmful algae, area closes for ‘unknown hazards’

Several hiking trails and recreational sites near where the bodies of a California family were found were closed in the Sierra National Forest this week due to “unknown hazards.”

The U.S Forest Service’s order that went into effect on Sunday came one day before the agency announced all national forests in California would be closed through Sept. 17 due to the spread of wildfires in the state. However, the closures alongside the Merced River near where the family was found are in effect through Sept. 26.

Officials said the decision was “due to unknown hazards found in and near the Savage Lundy Trail,” the same one where hey dude shoes John Gerrish, Ellen Chung, their 1-year-old daughter, Miju and family dog were found dead near on Aug. 17.

There has yet to be a cause of death determined after autopsies yielded no conclusive evidence, and toxicology results are still pending.

Leak Pen, assistant recreation officer at the Bass Lake Ranger District, which oversees that portion of the Sierra National Forest, told the Associated Press said one water test has come back positive for harmful algae bloom. Other tests were negative or are still pending results.

“We are uncertain of the causes of death. We still haven’t gotten the results from the case,” Pen said. “So, as a precaution, let’s go ahead and close it because we know there’s some form of hazard to the public.”

A Mariposa County deputy sheriff stands watch over a remote area northeast of the town of Mariposa, Calif., on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021, near the area where a family and their dog were reportedly found dead the day before.
A Mariposa County deputy sheriff stands watch over a remote area northeast of the town of Mariposa, Calif., on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021, near the area where a family and their dog were reportedly found dead the day before.
Investigators have ruled out chemical hazards along the trail, and samples of water from the river, as well as water the family had, were taken for testing. Authorities also said witnesses said they saw the family traveling to the trail in their car in the morning of Aug. 15.“We know the family and friends of John and Ellen are desperate for answers. Our team of detectives is working round the clock. Cases like this require us to be methodical and thorough while also reaching out to every resource we can find to hoka shoes help us bring those answers to them as quickly as we can,” Mariposa Sheriff Jeremy Briese said in a statement.

When the family’s bodies were first found, investigators treated the scene as a “hazmat situation” since toxic algae blooms have been known to be in the area.

Dr. Erika Holland, assistant professor of biological sciences at California State University of Long Beach, told USA TODAY toxic algae can be fatal if a person ingests water from a bloom that contains certain toxins and “can cause death within a couple hours.”

Pen added the deaths are still mysterious.

“Because of the heat there’s a chance they may have drank the water or tried to treat the water, but we don’t know,” he said. “We’re all just waiting for the results.”

The U.S. Forest Service in July reported toxic algae was found earlier in the summer in an area roughly three miles north of where the family was found. The area is still listed with a “caution” advisory level, according to a State Water Board map, and officials have posted warning signs about the blooms in the area.

I’m an Amazon delivery driver who’s had to pee in water bottles and eat lunch in my van. I hate the new surveillance cameras and feel like I’m always being watched.

After four years of working in an Amazon warehouse, I applied to be a delivery driver.

I wanted to be a driver because I thought I would have a lot more freedom and wouldn’t have to deal with the uneven management style in the warehouse. Angel Rajal. Courtesy of Angel Rajal

I started driving in July, in the middle of the pandemic, in a classic Amazon van, but I’ve enjoyed being in a customer-facing role compared with the distribution center. (Rajal, like most Amazon delivery drivers, is hired by a local delivery service partner and considered an independent subcontractor.)

But during the holiday season, I was targeted in attempted robberies and have had people follow me while out on my route.

The time inside the van comes with its own pains, too. You’re in a packed-to-the-brim vehicle for more than 10 hours a day, are expected to deliver up to 400 packages, and each package is expected to be delivered within 30 seconds.

The routes, too, sometimes take you to rural areas where public bathrooms are out of reach.

There have been multiple times where I’ve had to pee in a plastic water bottle because there was no bathroom available.

Many public restrooms are closed because of COVID-19, but most of the time I’m out in the mountains making deliveries and feel pressured to keep up with my route.

My current route is fairly rural, and it would take me 15 minutes to get to the nearest restroom. It would take more than 40 minutes round-trip and put me far behind schedule, which would dock points from my score.

I used to enjoy being an Amazon delivery driver, but ever since the company installed cameras in our vans, it feels like we’re always being watched.

Amazon says the AI-powered, 270-degree cameras are motion activated and not recording all the time.

They can tell what the driver is doing. I get a “distracted driver” notification even if I’m changing the radio station or drinking water. Sometimes if I turn my head away from the front of the van, I’ll get a ding.

It’s getting to be so annoying. For every “distracted driver” notification, I’m being docked points from my safety score, which management reviews and can use to dock my hours or fire me. Amazon said the camera is there to help us with safety, but it feels like an invasion of privacy.

Most of the drivers in my DSP feel just as frustrated. Amazon has also changed its routing algorithm and marks multiple deliveries in one area as a single stop, even though the houses and apartments are spread out and are often on the other side of the block. It’s changes like these that make our jobs so much harder.

I used to think I would have freedom as a delivery driver, but most of the time I eat my lunch in my van on the side of the road because it would take me too far out of the way to find a park and enjoy the fresh air.

I used to work in the customer-service returns department.

My job was to process every return customers sent back to the company, make sure the items were not damaged, and determine whether the item could be resold.

My warehouse was the biggest I’ve ever seen. I’d estimate that more than 1,000 people worked there throughout various departments.

I worked the night shift, meaning from around 7:15 p.m. to 7 a.m. Before working for Amazon, I worked in security, so I was already used to the long late-night hours.

Amazon warehouse workers are expected to “make rate” – a productivity metric where we have to process a certain number of packages and items within an hour or risk dropping in rate, being written up, or fired. In my department, I was expected to process 40 to 60 returns in a single hour, which was stressful and at times seemed impossible.

I was written up twice during my time working in the warehouse.

The first was because I had a bloody nose and didn’t make rate for the hour I spent tending to it.

The second was when I had to leave early to deal with a family emergency. Whenever you don’t make rate, it goes into your performance review.

The most challenging thing about working in the warehouse was leadership and management.

In my experience, managers showed favoritism to some and overlooked others when it came to promotions. I applied for “ambassador” roles (workers who trained new hires) multiple times and never received a promotion or raise.

Members of leadership also contradicted one another often. One manager would tell me to do a task a certain way, and another would tell me to do the opposite. The managers often disagreed on the right ways to train new hires and coach associates on simple tasks like processing items.

Sometimes managers would yell at one another in the presence of associates.

It felt as if the company had no structure, and anyone could make up the rules as they went along.

It also felt as if we were discouraged from using our paid time off and vacation hours. Managers would often tell associates to “be careful” of how we spent our PTO because if we ever had an emergency and didn’t have enough hours to make up the rest of our shifts, we wouldn’t be able to leave. (PTO is determined by how an employee is classified, whether part-time, full-time, or salaried, and increases based on years spent working for Amazon.)

There were times when associates talked about forming a union, but nothing ever came out of those talks.

My job as a warehouse worker for Amazon was easy in terms of tasks but was physically demanding.

One thing I liked about working for Amazon as a customer-service associate was the pay and that my medical benefits were available when I started. But overall the experience in the warehouse itself was very negative.

I would say about 60% to 70% of the drivers I’ve talked to are interested in unionizing.

I stay up-to-date on Amazon news through employee social-media forums on Facebook and Reddit.

A lot of Amazon workers are paying attention to what happens in Alabama with the union vote and believe unionizing is the way to go for better pay and better working conditions.

In a statement to Insider, Amazon spokesperson Deborah Bass wrote: “Like most companies, we have performance expectations for every Amazon employee and we measure actual performance against those expectations. Associate performance is measured and evaluated over a period of time as we know that a variety of things could impact the ability to meet expectations in any given day or hour. Netradyne cameras are used to help keep drivers and the communities where we deliver safe. We piloted the technology from April to October 2020 on over two million miles of delivery routes and the results produced remarkable driver and community safety improvements – accidents decreased 48%, stop sign violations decreased 20%, driving without a seatbelt decreased 60%, and distracted driving decreased 45%. Don’t believe the self-interested critics who claim these cameras are intended for anything other than safety.”

The thoughts expressed are those of the subject. Insider confirmed he is employed as an Amazon driver through a DSP.

Read the original article on Business Insider

6-year-old girl fatally shot by relative over spilled water, police say

A 6-year-old Texas girl was fatally shot by a relative following an argument over spilled water, according to the NBC affiliate in Houston.

Police in Pasadena, a city southeast of Houston, said officers responded to reports of a shooting at an apartment complex around 11:30 a.m. Friday, KPRC-TV reported. A male family member of Laurionne Walker, 6, shot the girl multiple times, police said.

“I’m at a loss for words right now,” Earline House, Laurionne’s grandmother told the news station. “My granddaughter was still a baby. She got shot twice in the chest this morning.”

Laurionne was taken to a hospital, where she later died of her injuries, KPRC reported.

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On Saturday, Pasadena police charged Raymeon Means, 35, with capital murder in connection with the girl’s death. Police said he remains in custody with no bond, KPRC reported.

This is the second time Laurionne’s family has been struck by tragedy this week, KPRC reported. Laurionne’s three cousins, all of them children, died in an unrelated car crash in Spring, Texas, Sunday night. The mother of the three children was also killed in the wreck, which involved a suspected drunken driver.

Damien House, the brother of Laurionne’s mother, offered words of comfort to his sister.

“All I can say to my sister, ‘I’m here for her,’ House told KPRC. “I can imagine what she’s going through because we’re all going through the same thing.”

Over 9 million people still face drinking water problems! Biden intends to go to Texas to understand the disaster

Texas, the United States, has recently been affected by snowstorms, water and power cuts, and the situation has not been fully alleviated. President Biden plans to go to Texas on the 26th local time to understand the disaster.

On the other hand, on the 23rd, four Texas Electric Reliability Commission (ERCOT) board members submitted their resignations. Governor Abbott responded that he “welcomes” his resignation and will continue to investigate ERCOT.

Biden plans to travel to Texas to learn about the disaster

On the afternoon of the 23rd local time, the White House announced its itinerary, saying that Biden will go to Houston with the first lady Jill. In recent days, he has remotely contacted the Texas state government and local officials, but expressed his unwillingness to visit Texas too early to avoid taking up resources to deal with the current crisis.

White House spokesperson Shaqi said that during the inspection, Biden will “meet with local leaders to discuss winter storms and snow, disaster relief work, progress in recovery work, and the incredible resilience shown by the people of Texas and Houston.” She He added that Biden will also visit a health center that is distributing the new crown vaccine. The White House will provide further information on this visit soon.

The blizzard last week caused billions of dollars in damage to Texas. Millions of Texas residents have been without water and electricity for a long time, struggling to survive the severe cold. Currently, dozens of people in Texas have died in accidents related to winter blizzards.

In response, Saki said that in the states affected by the storm, the number of asylums is decreasing, and electricity and transportation have returned to normal. But over 9 million people still face drinking water problems.

Four ERCOT board members resign

The governor of Texas says he will continue to investigate ERCOT

On the 23rd, 4 board members of the Texas Electric Reliability Commission (ERCOT), including the chairman and the vice chairman, submitted their resignations, effective from the 24th.

According to a letter to the board of directors, the four officials resigned after ERCOT was reviewed because the board members did not live in Texas. Of the four members, one lives in Michigan and one lives in Illinois. The place of residence of the other two is not shown on their ERCOT introduction page.

Texas Governor Abbott issued a statement on the resignation of ERCOT’s board of directors on the 23rd, stating, “When Texans desperately needed electricity, ERCOT failed to do its job well. Texans could only tremble with cold at home. There is no electricity. The leadership of ERCOT assured that Texas’s electricity infrastructure was prepared for winter storms, but these guarantees proved to be catastrophically wrong.”

The statement also said, “The lack of preparation and transparency of ERCOT is unacceptable. I welcome these resignations. Texas will continue to investigate ERCOT to find out the full cause of the problem, and we will ensure that the catastrophic events of last week will not repeat itself.”