Sunday, October 26, 2014

Largest City in South America Could Run Out of Water in 100 Days

The Cantareira System, responsible for half the water supply of South America’s largest city, is now at 3.2 percent capacity. (Credit: (AP Photo/Andre penner) Click to enlarge.
The state of São Paulo is home to the seventh-largest metropolitan region in the world and responsible for a third of Brazil’s GDP.  It is going through its worst drought in almost a century — the worst spring drought in history.  During the last rainy season (October-February), São Paulo only received between a third and a half of its normal amount of rain.  Since then it has only seen about 40 percent of the normal amount.  The region is running dangerously low on water, with its reservoirs operating at under five percent capacity.  The rainy season — which was supposed to start in late September or early October — is a month late, and no significant rains are predicted anytime soon.  Some sources estimate the state, which is home to 44 million people, could run dry in less than 100 days.

“If the drought continues, residents will face more dramatic water shortages in the short term,” Vicente Andreu, the president of Brazil’s National Water Agency, told reporters.  “If it doesn’t rain, we run the risk that the region will have a collapse like we’ve never seen before.”

In the city of São Paulo — South America’s largest — at least 60 percent of residents have experienced water shortages in the past month.  The main reservoir feeding the city has become a dry bed of cracked earth.  Volume is so low that authorities had to build 2 miles of pipes in order to salvage the remaining water.  Reservoirs across the state are experiencing similarly low volumes.  Cantareira, the biggest reservoir in the state, currently holds 3.2 percent of its normal load.
In the long term, climate change could well exacerbate Sao Paulo’s problems.  The IPCC says that the region is likely to become even drier in the period between September and November as warming continues.

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