Well, folks, it looks like water rationing is coming to São Paulo, big time. It’s high time, actually, but the government still seems to be vacillating, unable to make up their minds. Meanwhile, the water table continues to inch down, by the foot.
Already, two schools in the north of the city are shut down due to the shortage, and two more are likely to be shut down. Other schools will close their doors on days when the water is cut off due to rationing.
One of the plans for rationing is a “5 days off/2 days on” plan throughout the city. That is apparently the worst-case scenario, but with little rain falling and the city’s primary reservoirs almost depleted, perhaps it is likely.
Think about it. This isn’t just a matter of storing drinking water in our homes to make it through those five days (and how much water can we store at a time?). It means that no one could bathe, no buildings would be cleaned, cooking would be limited at home and in restaurants, and … well, I can’t imagine the suffering of the poor. We have access to other sources of water (even if the prices skyrocket). But the poor get only what they can tap into illegally, or what is available at public sources. Here in São Paulo, there are no safety nets. Especially for the poor. You’re on your own.
This also calls into question what hotels will do with out-of-town visitors. They will likely cancel their visits. We’re already rethinking our vacation plans here. (Read, don’t stay in Brazil!) The economy will tank, as tourism suffers, corporations have to lay off people, hospitals will be strained to keep operating, crops and livestock die … and the list goes on and on.
According to a study conducted in October and November, 95 percent of companies, industries, hospitals, and hotels in São Paulo have no contingency plan to deal with the water shortage. According to the study, not one of the 17 hospitals in the study have an alternative source of water!
Some businesses, condominium complexes, and other edifices have their own wells, but those will soon dry up if no other source of water is available.
The lack of rain, combined with low humidity and the stagnation of a mass of hot air above the state of São Paulo, mean that air quality in Greater São Paulo is currently reported to be worse than it has been since 2007. The state environmental agency says that the report of such bad air is “premature,” arguing that the air quality in 2014 is only worse than the previous three years, considering the number of times the current limits for “fine dust” were exceeded. (Well, that makes me feel a whole lot better!)
As elsewhere, Brazil will recover from this drought. But not any time soon.
I’m afraid we’re in for a rough go.