If the United States were to go through a major drought, and the government turned off your water 5 out of 7 days a week, what would you do? That’s exactly what is looming over Sao Paulo, Brazil, with a population of 20 million. The Jaguari water reservoir is rapidly being depleted.
Though northern Brazil has access to the mighty Amazon River, southeastern Brazil is not so fortunate. They are experiencing the worst drought in 100 years- and it’s worsened by pollution, and deforestation, a poor water management system, and population growth.
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Water two days a week
Sao Paulo’s reservoir system is running out of water, and fast. Some consumers are already being rationed, and the government says it may ration people back to getting water only 2 days per week. And that may be if things go well.
The New York Times wrote,
“Behind closed doors, the views are grimmer. In a meeting recorded secretly and leaked to the local news media, Paulo Massato, a senior official at São Paulo’s water utility, said that residents might have to be warned to flee because “there’s not enough water, there won’t be water to bathe, to clean” homes.
“We’re witnessing an unprecedented water crisis in one of the world’s great industrial cities,” said Marússia Whately, a water specialist at Instituto Socioambiental, a Brazilian environmental group. “Because of environmental degradation and political cowardice, millions of people in São Paulo are now wondering when the water will run out.”
For some in this traffic-choked megacity of futuristic skyscrapers, gated communities and sprawling slums, the slow-burning crisis has already meant no running water for days on end.
“Imagine going three days without any water and trying to run a business in a basic sanitary way,” said Maria da Fátima Ribeiro, 51, who owns a bar in Parque Alexandra, a gritty neighborhood on the edge of São Paulo’s metropolitan area. “This is Brazil, where human beings are treated worse than dogs by our own politicians.”
Some of the reasons why there is a problem:
The two polluted rivers, the Tiete and Pinheiros, that run through Sao Paulos, reportedly stink so bad that people become nauseated when they are near them. Adding to that is what the Times describes as “leaky” water systems that dump most of the water before it ever reaches the homes.
The problem of deforestation is a real one. The Amazon basin is a RAINFOREST region- its soil is “laterite.” That means it’s not the kind that you can just replant, like North American forests. The soil is reddish or yellowish in color and is formed by the weathering of rocks- iron oxides, aluminum oxides, etc. It has a porous, but clay-like consistency that hardens when exposed to the sun. The presence of the trees allows nutrients to be “recycled” by the forest. Without that covering, it becomes barren.
Take away the forest, with its wet enriched environment and recycled nutrients, and you end up with a nasty desert of acidic soil. And then the “rain” from the rainforest is not as plentiful, especially for those who are south of the basin.
Then there’s major population growth that has resulted in 20 million people using a water supply that has been grossly mismanaged.
What would you do if the government turned off your water? It’s not a pretty thought, but it’s one that you might wish to consider.