Water Shortage in Fresh Water Country

The drying 'Paraibuna' dam, part of the Cantareira water system that provides for Sao Paulo City

The drying ‘Paraibuna’ dam, part of the Cantareira water system that provides for Sao Paulo City

We all know that out of all the water on Earth, only 2.5-2.75 percent of water is fresh water, which is the main source of survival for various living organisms from plants to mammals. World’s 87 percent of freshwater comes from the lakes, like the ‘Great African Rivers’, ‘Lake Baikal’ (in Russia), and Great lakes of North America. Brazil is one of the unique places on earth, which is blessed with enormous natural riches. 12 percent of World’s freshwater resources belong to this country. Yet, one of Brazil’s biggest cities, Sao Paulo is facing one of the worst possible water crises.

Sao Paulo’s metropolitan area is the home for nearly 20 million people and cities main reservoir (Cantareira) is at just 6 percent capacity, and the rainy season is long gone. The apartment residents of the city is said to have taken all kinds of measures to hoard water – from drilling homemade wells to forced rationing of water. Some of the schools in the city are forced to close, and small restaurants went out of business. Since one-fifth of Brazilians live in this city, and one-third of the country’s GDP is produced from this city, Brazil’s whole economy is said to be heading into a bleak phase, while its president Dilma Rousseff’s popularity have run out of its course.


Brazil is facing drought for the third consecutive year and the rains have poured only one-third of normal amount. Environmental scientists have pointed the rapid deforestation in Amazon (deforestation in the Amazon has surged in the last six months, with the period September 2014 to January 2015) and South American rainforests as the primary cause of drought. While the Sao Paulo’s aren’t solely responsible for the drought, they bear the brunt for pushing the situation into a major crisis. There are also said to be tensions among city residents as they are blaming one another for the water shortage. ‘Alliance for Water’, a global watchdog group which insists on responsible use of fresh water, notably commented that: “Catastrophic situations like flood often fosters solidarity, but lack of resources tends to do the opposite, leading to violence and chaos”.


The local editorials and some scientific studies also blame the out-dated and leaky water systems of the government. Like many other metropolis in the world, 30 percent of Sao Paulo’s drinking water is estimated to be lost in the leaks or to thefts. The governments which think about bringing in gallons of water to immediately solve the crisis don’t care about building a resilient water system. All over the world, metropolis has water managers, but the actions taken by them to avoid catastrophic outcomes are rare. No drought emergencies are declared and there are no water restrictions in such all-consuming situation.

The water shortage of Sao Paulo teaches many lessons to the under-planned, rapidly developing cities all over the world. For decades, people talk about how the third world war would be fought between countries for water. But, many analysts have said this is unlikely. They are saying that water conflicts would only be regionalised conflicts, creating civic unrest between neighboring states or cities. Such a prediction is more alarming than a third World War.


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