Wow, that’s crazy! Brazil is suffering through its worse drought in 80 years, but politics has impeded practical action being taken. Sound familiar? When are the water wars going to start getting violent in the US? Ten years? Five years? Twenty years?
São Paulo, Brazil’s drought-hit megacity of 20 million, has about two months of guaranteed water supply remaining as it taps into the second of three emergency reserves, officials say.
The city began using its second so-called “technical reserve” 10 days ago to prevent a water crisis after reservoirs reached critically low levels last month.
This is the first time the state has resorted to using the reserves, experts say.
“If we take into account the same pattern of water extraction and rainfall that we’ve seen so far this month – and it’s been raining less than half of the average – we can say the (reserve) will last up to 60 days,” said Marussia Whately, a water resources specialist at environmental NGO Instituto Socioambiental.
But an expected increase in water usage during the upcoming Christmas and New Year’s holidays could easily reduce the time the reserve will last, she added.
After that period, there is no certainty over the water supply available to Brazil’s wealthiest city and financial center, Whately said.
A presidential election in October, which pitted the governing Workers Party (PT) against the opposition Social Democracy Party (PSDB), led São Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin of the PSDB to delay taking action on the water shortage – such as ordering mandatory rationing – for fear of losing votes during his reelection campaign, experts say.
(click here to continue reading Drought-hit Sao Paulo may ‘get water from mud’: TRFN | Reuters.)
I’ve been watching the planet’s upcoming water crisis for many years, even before this blog existed, and other than desalinization becoming cheaper, or the vast oil/gas pipeline network being repurposed to carry water, there haven’t been many solutions proferred. The next century will be interesting, in the sense of the (pseudo) Chinese proverb, “May You Live In Interesting Times”1
Dom Phillips writes in the Washington Post:
But critics say the state government, which controls the water company, played down the crisis because of October’s elections, in which the state’s governor, Geraldo Alckmin, was reelected. Critics say SABESP has failed to keep the population properly informed and to introduce enough effective measures to reduce consumption.
“It is not just the lack of water, which is critical, it is also not knowing how to manage the crisis,” said Carlos de Oliveira of the Brazilian Consumer Defense Institute in São Paulo. The institute only recently received key maps outlining the worst-hit areas — but they did not feature streets, just gradients. “Instead of supplying information, SABESP blames the consumer,” he said.
The water company said there is no rationing or rotating of the water supply — just nightly reductions in pressure to cut losses. Nobody believes it.
“There is rationing,” said Paulo Santos, manager of the elegant Condomínio Louvre building in São Paulo’s center, which has 320 apartments and 45 shops. Water is cut off most nights, starting about 10 p.m., Santos said. He maintains supply by keeping a 12,000-gallon tank full and is installing tanks to capture rainfall on a roof. “The residents are worried. They keep asking about the water,” he said.
(click here to continue reading Taps run dry in São Paulo drought, but water company barely shrugs – The Washington Post.)
And more details from Bloomberg:
Brazil’s Jaguari reservoir has fallen to its lowest level ever, laying bare measurement posts that jut from exposed earth like a line of dominoes. The nation’s two biggest cities are fighting for what little water is left.
Sao Paulo state leaders want to tap Jaguari, which feeds Rio de Janeiro’s main source. Rio state officials say they shouldn’t suffer for others’ mismanagement. Supreme Court judges have summoned the parties to Brasilia for a mediation session this week.
The standoff in a nation with more water resources than any other country in the world portends further conflicts as the planet grows increasingly urban. One in three of the world’s 100 biggest cities is under water stress, according to The Nature Conservancy, a U.S.-based nonprofit.
“It’s unusual in that it’s two very large cities facing what could be a new, permanent conflict over the allocation of water,” said Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, a research organization in Oakland, California. “It’s a wake-up call that even places we think of as water-rich have to learn to do a better job of managing what’s ultimately a scarce resource. Nature doesn’t always cooperate with us.”
While Rio has so far remained mostly unaffected by the country’s worst drought in eight decades, that’s not the case for its neighbor to the south. More than half the Paulistas in a Datafolha poll last month said they had been without water at least once in the previous 30 days.
(click here to continue reading Water War Amid Brazil Drought Leads to Fight Over Puddles – Bloomberg.)
Man-made destruction is at least partly to blame, of course
Antonio Nobre, a researcher at Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research and its National Institute for Amazonian Research, wrote in an e-mail that deforestation might be connected to the drought.
In October, Nobre published a scientific assessment report, which argued that clear-cutting has altered the Amazon forest’s climate — as evidenced by droughts in 2005 and 2010. The forest functions as a “biotic pump,” it said, channeling moisture down to São Paulo via “aerial rivers” that bounce off the Andes wall.
(click here to continue reading Taps run dry in São Paulo drought, but water company barely shrugs – The Washington Post.)Footnotes:
- The nearest related Chinese expression is “宁为太平犬，莫做乱世人” (níng wéi tàipíng quǎn, mò zuò luànshì rén) which conveys the sense that it is “better to live as a dog in an era of peace than a man in times of war.” [↩]