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Sao Paulo, Brazil Faces Water Shortage

Sao Paulo, Brazil Faces Water Shortage
Photo credit: Júlio Boaro / Flickr

The start of the 2014 FIFA World Cup is just a few weeks away, as the opening game is slated for June 12. But the event’s host city, Sao Paulo, Brazil, is in the midst of an untimely crisis that many claim could have been avoided – it’s running out of water, and fast.

According to The Guardian, South America’s largest city is currently experiencing a drought along the likes of nothing it has ever experienced before. The news source states that for many residents, water is being completely turned off at night or on the weekends to conserve as much as possible and the current reservoir levels are the lowest that they’ve ever been.

As of May 13, The Guardian reports that the water system that supplies about half of Sao Paulo’s 20 million residents was at 8.3 percent capacity. Many credit the recent drought-like summer for the water shortage. Others say this could have easily been avoided if cautionary measures were taken earlier.

A Brazil Problem

Although Sao Paulo is getting the most attention for its water problem, being that it is the largest South American city and World Cup host city, the water shortage isn’t just confined to one area.

According to RT, all of Brazil is being impacted by this drought and 140 cities are currently rationing water as a result of it. To be exact, the news site claims that water is being rationed to about 6 million people throughout 142 cities and 11 states in Brazil – some people are even going without water for days as a result.

The root of the problem? According to RT, it was a record hot summer. In fact, temperatures in January were a degree warmer than the previous “hottest” month on record and more than surpassed February 1984 as Brazil’s hottest month ever. Things didn’t improve in February. According to The Guardian, only 73 mm of rain fell in the month of February – which is drastically down from the 200+ mm that normally falls throughout the month.

What’s more is that RT states that a water shortage could just be the start of things, as Brazil is also concerned about crop damage. But in terms of water shortages, the news site claims that it appears matters could become worse before they get better.


While many argue that there’s nothing that could have been done to prevent the water shortages, many also think things could have played out differently to avoid this issue. According to The Guardian, many proposals were made in the past that would have added more water sources and reservoirs, thereby reducing the dependence on Sao Paulo’s largest reservoir system, which is known as “the Cantareira.”

The proposals, however, weren’t considered, resulting in more dependence on the Cantareira. And now it appears that the city is paying the price for putting most of their eggs into one water reservoir basket.

Where to go?

To bust out of the water drought, rainfall is an obvious answer. But, according to The Guardian, some penalties and incentives may also be enacted soon so that consumers aren’t using more water than what’s necessary for their household. For instance, extra fees may be instituted to people who go over a certain water limit and bonuses may be considered for households that regularly economize their water.

Regardless of the circumstances in how the drought occurred, how it could have been avoided or how it may end, one thing’s for certain – the problem will likely get put under the microscope in just a few weeks when athletes, media and sports fans descend on the city for the World Cup, much of the same way the problems of Sochi, Russia made headlines during the recent Olympic Winter Games.

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