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Sao Paulo drought worsens — Rationing may be next

In Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, with a population of over 20 million people, the city’s main reservoir, The Cantareira reservoir system, is only at six percent capacity, and the peak of the rainy season is already long gone. Another reservoir, the Alto Tietê reservoir network, supplying about three million people, is 15 percent capacity.

Officials are worried that based on present consumption levels, there will be only enough water to last another five or six months, meaning they will run out of water before the start of the next rainy season. To this end, state officials are considering a water rationing plan of five days without water and two days with water, in case the February and March rains do not materialize.

But Sao Paulo’s troubles are only a small part of an even bigger problem, affecting Brazil’s south and central states. The drought is drying up the country’s hydropower dams, and in a country that is 70 percent dependent on hydropower for its electricity, this drought could lead to energy rationing. “If we continue with these low levels of water in the reservoirs, it will be really difficult to avoid rationing in Brazil,” said Mauro Storino, senior director at Fitch Ratings.

Extremes of climate and governmental mismanagement
The drought scenario, combined with a culture of waste and pollution, along with the addition of governmental mismanagement and lack of transparency are all combining to lead Brazil to the brink of economic collapse, according to The Guardian. They cite experts and civil society groups that have been calling for minimum water regulations to keep reservoirs at a sustainable level for a number of years.

These groups have issued warnings over the mismanaged governmental policies on destructive land use programs, as well as the lack of a response to the severity of the water problem. A member of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff”s staff, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that some degree of water rationing can be expected in Brazil’s three largest metropolitan areas, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte. These three cities have a combined population of 40 million people.

And the extreme weather has also affected people’s health. Water rationing will not be pleasant for the over 120 people in Sao Paulo with Dengue fever. The cases this year in January are triple what they were last year. Officials are blaming the rise in cases of Dengue fever on people collecting rain water in open containers which attract mosquitoes. The prospects for relief are not looking good.

Written By

Karen Graham is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for environmental news. Karen's view of what is happening in our world is colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in man's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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