water

Sao Paulo reservoirs are almost bone dry. Last year’s rainy season passed us by, except for a few days of torrential rain. But, as a season, we were left high and dry.

This is apparently the worst drought in 80 years, leaving 13 million people with a water shortage such as most have never experienced. By some estimates, the reservoirs feeding Sao Paulo could run dry by the end of next month. Other estimates push that back until early next year (hmm, some difference, of two or three months?).

At any rate, the reservoir is down to 4% capacity, the lowest level ever recorded.

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Images of the drought and its consequences fill the news daily. But you don’t need to see the photos to know how bad it is. All you have to do is drive along the River Pinheiros or the River Tiete … which both reek of sewage. I pity the folks who live within whiff.

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And it’s not just a matter of no water to drink (“just a matter,” ha!). The drought is damaging coffee and sugarcane crops, and has caused many shipments that typically are typically transported by water to be trucked, driving up costs to producers and consumers alike.

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While rationing hasn’t been enacted, many friends tell me that their electricity and/or water has been cut off in the evenings or on weekends (generating electricity takes water). We haven’t had to cut back yet, not officially, but we certainly have, shortening our showers to 3 minutes, flushing only when necessary, and turning off all unnecessary lights. Haven’t had the car washed for weeks. (I know, that’s not a huge sacrifice. Just another small effort to do our part.)

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that though city and state officials have known a record-breaking shortage was coming since 2011, nothing was done to conserve or contain water, nothing beyond the business-as-usual methods. And now, it’s time to pay the piper.

Tom and I have laid in a store of 10-gallon water bottles, against the days when our water is shut off. Other than that, I don’t know how you plan to survive in a city of 18-22 million without water.

Time will tell. If water doesn’t come, Brazil will face a host of new challenges. As if they need more.