The states of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais are running out of water. According to a Brazilian Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira, the three states are experiencing the worst drought in recorded history, and the facts are painting a bleak picture for the future. Authorities have already implemented water saving measures, and rations may be implemented in the near future.
Brazil was supposed to be in the rainy season, but there’s almost no signs of rain in the south-east and the drought shows no sign of stopping. In Sao Paulo, the country’s largest city, the major reservoir system has dropped to 5.2% of its capacity. In Rio de Janeiro state, the main water reservoir has dropped to level zero for the first time since it was built.
With a population of over 200 million, Brazil is the 5th most populated country in the world. Rio de Janeiro (the city) alone hosts 12 million people, while Sao Paulo hosts over 20 million. The fact that these cities are close to running out of water posts a huge threat to the inhabitants, and also raises a big red flag regarding the changing climate.
But it’s not just that people will run out of water – industry and agriculture will be severely affected, posing even more problems for Brazil’s troubled economy. Energy from hydroelectric dams (Brazil’s major energy source) will also be affected.
“Since records for Brazil’s south-eastern region began 84 years ago, we have never seen such a delicate and worrying situation,” said Ms Teixeira.
According to the BBC, the crisis began in Sao Paulo, where hundreds of thousands of people are experiencing frequent cuts in water supplies.
“Governor Geraldo Alckmin has taken several measures, such as raising charges for high consumption levels, offering discounts to those who reduce use, and limiting the amounts captured by industries and agriculture from rivers”, their website writes.
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.
With adequate measures not being taken sooner, there will be harsh consequences. Rio and Minas Gerais are asking both residents and industriesto reduce water consumption by as much as 30%, while rations might be implemented 6 months from now.
Enjoyed this article? Join 40,000+ subscribers to the ZME Science newsletter. Subscribe now!