Tuesday, March 10

Brazil Drought: Fighting over puddles, drilling for water in basements

2015: Financial Times, March 3:  Sao Paulo residents drill under  homes as drought cripples city 

2014: "The standoff in a nation with more water resources than any other country in the world portends further conflicts ..."

by David Biller and Vanessa Dezem Baida

Bloomberg BusinessNovember 25, 2014

Nov. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Brazil’s Jaguari reservoir has fallen to its lowest level ever, laying bare measurement posts that jut from exposed earth like a line of dominoes. The nation’s two biggest cities are fighting for what little water is left.

Sao Paulo state leaders want to tap Jaguari, which feeds Rio de Janeiro’s main source. Rio state officials say they shouldn’t suffer for others’ mismanagement. Supreme Court judges have summoned the parties to Brasilia for a mediation session this week.

The standoff in a nation with more water resources than any other country in the world portends further conflicts as the planet grows increasingly urban. One in three of the world’s 100 biggest cities is under water stress, according to The Nature Conservancy, a U.S.-based nonprofit.

“It’s unusual in that it’s two very large cities facing what could be a new, permanent conflict over the allocation of water,” said Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, a research organization in Oakland, California. “It’s a wake-up call that even places we think of as water-rich have to learn to do a better job of managing what’s ultimately a scarce resource. Nature doesn’t always cooperate with us.”

While Rio has so far remained mostly unaffected by the country’s worst drought in eight decades, that’s not the case for its neighbor to the south. More than half the Paulistas in a Datafolha poll last month said they had been without water at least once in the previous 30 days.

Resisting Restrictions

Even so, Sao Paulo has resisted restrictions that states like California have enforced, including prohibiting restaurants from serving water except when asked and allowing homeowners to water lawns only on specified days.

Walk around Sao Paulo’s main financial district and it’s common to see shop owners hosing sidewalks and vehicles waiting at car washes. In other parts of the city and state served by different reservoirs that are all but used up, water has already been cut off for days at a time.
[END Bloomberg report]

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