Brazil is home to roughly 12 per cent of the world’s fresh water and São Paulo, the country’s largest metropolis, is about to run out of water permanently.
São Paulo’s water crisis that began in 2014 is the region’s worst drought in more than 80 years and more than 20 million residents are facing intermittent disruptions in water supply. Resource experts say the problem will worse in the next months and, in a country that depends on hydropower for about 80 per cent of its electricity, this is threatening to create an even bigger problem for Brazil’s economy — energy rationing.
It’s a dramatic situation and the severity of the drought is apparent in São Paulo’s reservoir levels. Collectively, the six primary reservoir systems of the region are at 27.1 per cent full. The Cantareira system, the city’s most important water storage facility which provides water to 11 million of people is about to collapse and is currently at just 15 per cent of its capacity, the so-called “dead volume”.
According to experts the origins of the crisis go beyond the recent drought to include a range of interconnected factors like the city’s population growth, bad management by the local government, the heavy pollution of local rivers, an old piping system that waste large amount of water, and the destruction of surrounding forests and wetlands. Some leading climate scientists add that the absence of rain that has dried up rivers and reservoirs in central and southeast Brazil is a change brought about by a combination of the continuing deforestation of the Amazon rainforest and global warming.