News Feature | February 20, 2015

Brazil Water Crisis Sparks Panic

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Brazil residents showed signs of panic this month when the government showed signs it may take aggressive steps to avert its water crisis—potentially instituting drastic water rations.

"Brazilians are hoarding water in their apartments, drilling homemade wells and taking other emergency measures to prepare for forced rationing that appears likely and could leave taps dry for up to five days a week because of a drought," Reuters reported.

"In São Paulo, the country's largest city with a metropolitan area of 20 million people, the main reservoir is at just 6 percent of capacity with the peak of the rainy season now past. Other cities in Brazil's heavily populated southeast such as Rio de Janeiro face less dire shortages but could also see rationing," the report continued.

Tensions have arisen between cities in the water-starved nation.

"São Paulo has tussled with Rio de Janeiro over the use of the Rio Jaguari, a river that runs across state borders and is used by the latter for hydropower plants and to dilute sewage in the absence of adequate treatment plants. São Paulo, which is downstream, has tapped this river to partially recuperate the Paraiba reservoir system despite the protests of its neighbor and admonitions from the federal government," the Guardian reported.

Brazil does not usually need to worry this much about water scarcity, but shifting climate patterns have left the nation dry this year.

"It has been a terrible year. The last rainy season was drier than the dry season," Mauro Arce, São Paulo's water resources secretary, told the Guardian. "This is a crisis and we are responding with technical measures and the support of consumers."

Poor planning may be exacerbating the extent of the emergency.

"The situation is apparently worsened by politics interfering: if the state leaders would have done careful planning, rations and other measures should have already been implemented, but authorities reportedly didn’t want to alarm the population with elections taking place in late 2014," ZME Science reported.

BBC News has said that Brazil is "sleepwalking" into a water crisis. Sao Paulo, the nation's largest city, has been of particular concern.

"The main reservoir system that feeds this immense city is...dangerously low, and it would take months of intense, heavy rainfall for water levels to return to anything like normal," according to the report.

Check out Water Online's Water Scarcity Solution Center.