By Tiago Dantas
8 April 2015
[Translation by Bing] SÃO PAULO (O Globo) – The main reservoirs of São Paulo, Rio and Belo Horizonte have reached the end of the summer with at least 40% less water than they had at the beginning of April 2014. Although consumption of the population has fallen, experts assess that the water crisis that began last year may worsen throughout the dry season, which should finish in October. Sanitation companies of these cities say they are investing to increase the supply of water.
The greatest variation occurred in São Paulo, where thousands of residents already complain of routine water shortage, although the Government won’t admit that there is rationing. The rains that fell from January to March were within the historical average and caused flooding and falling trees in São Paulo, but were not enough to fill the dead volume of the Cantareira system-water reserve that needs pumps to be captured.
The Cantareira consists of five dams, which bring water to 5.5 million people in the metropolitan region of São Paulo. In April 1, 2014, these reservoirs amounted to 418.6 billion liters of water, taking into account the dead volume. After a year, the amount dropped to 187 billion litres, the equivalent of 44.6%. Throughout the crisis, the consumption of water in greater São Paulo fell from 73 thousand litres of water per second to 59,000 gallons per second.
To encourage a reduction in consumption, the supply Company of São Paulo (Sabesp) is offering bonuses to who saves and charging fine who has increased on account. In addition, the company reduces the pressure in the pipes, which decreases the leaks and causes the water doesn’t come in higher and distant points. The company says that will make the interconnection of the eight systems that supply the greater São Paulo and which, until July, intends to deliver four works to increase the production of water, using rivers which hitherto were not used.
The reservoirs of the Paraíba do Sul River, where Rio de Janeiro draws water for 12 million people are also at lower levels than last year. At the end of March 2014, the rate was 40.7%. Since the measurement of April 1 stood at 16%. To face the crisis, the State water and Sewerage Company (Cedae) says it has invested in campaigns against the waste of water, in the execution of repairs in leaks, in replacement of pipelines and in combating illegal connections.
In Belo Horizonte, the amount of water reserved in the Manso River system, responsible for taking 1.5 million people fell about 40 percent in the last 12 months. If the dams were 131.7 billion liters in 2014, now are 79.4 billion. The Companhia de Saneamento do Estado de Minas Gerais (Copasa) is also betting on consumption reduction campaigns and a policy of reducing the losses that occur through leaks and illegal connections to get through the semester without rains.
“There is too much risk in the supply sector. In General, 75% of the Southeast rain falls between October and March. The logic is to keep water in these months in tanks for use in the dry period. But that didn’t happen,” explains Carlos Tucci, professor of Hydraulic Research Institute of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS).
“And added to this quantity of water crisis, we will have a quality crisis. If not planned water security, it was not treated sewage, you don’t see a strategy for sanitation in the country. It’s not just a climate problem. The drought is part of climate variation, of events that happen every interval of decades. But its effect has to do with how Governments deal with this issue.”
According to the Director of the National Center for Natural disaster monitoring and alerting (Cenaden), Charles Noble, in the month of April, rain in the Southeast is usually half the average registered in March. The reduction of atmospheric temperature and air humidity help explain why the rain clouds don’t form this time of year.
“One should not expect large volumes of rain in April, then comes a dry season and the rains just return in October. You can’t make long-term forecast in Southeast yet, but this is the scenario.”
In an interview with the GLOBE, the President of the Agência Nacional de Águas (ANA) reminds that Espírito Santo and much of the northeast of Brazil are also suffering the effects of drought. Last Wednesday, the Ministry of national integration reported that 56 Northeastern cities are without water for four days and need to be supplied by water truck. The number of municipalities in situations of collapse can increase to 105 in the coming months.
“The crisis has completely different characteristics in each region-said Andreu. I can’t pinpoint what is the situation of greater severity: in the Southeast or Northeast, where drought is already in the fourth year. All these regions deserve care and that your seizures are treated according to the specific features of each type of drought in each region.”
Situated in the North of Bahia, the Lake of Sobradinho, the largest reservoir in the Northeast, also faces a difficult situation. The level was just over 50% at the beginning of April last year to 17%. In this part of the São Francisco River, the water is also used to generate energy, another side of the water crisis.
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