A resident looks out of her apartment in a building painted with a drought-related mural, painted by Brazilian artist Mundano, depicting a man getting water from a cactus plant, in Sao Paulo, 25 November 2014. Photo: Nacho Doce / Reuters

By Adriana Brasileiro
29 November 2014

RIO DE JANEIRO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – 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.

If rain doesn’t replenish the Cantareira system - the main group of reservoirs that supply São Paulo - the city could run dry, she said.

A third and final technical reserve might be used, but it is difficult to access and mixed with silt that could make pumping it to users difficult, according to Vicente Andreu, the president of the water regulatory agency ANA.

“I believe that, technically, it would be unviable. But if it doesn’t rain, we won’t have an alternative but to get water from the mud,” Andreu said at a hearing about the water crisis in Brasilia’s Lower House of Congress on Nov. 13.

Brazil’s southeast region is suffering its worst drought in at least 80 years after an unusually dry year left rivers and reservoirs at critically low levels.

Antonio Nobre, a leading climate scientist at INPE, Brazil’s National Space Research Institute, has linked Brazil’s worsening drought to global warming and deforestation in the Amazon. Both are drastically reducing the release of billions of liters of water by rainforest trees, which reduces rainfall further south, he said. [more]

Drought-hit Sao Paulo may 'get water from mud': TRFN


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