Brazil may face water shortages during World Cup, group says

Wed Feb 5, 2014 3:06pm EST
 
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By Alberto Alerigi and Leonardo Goy

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazil's largest city, Sao Paulo, is on the verge of water rationing because of a severe drought and shortages are seen possible when the country hosts the World Cup soccer tournament in June and July, according to a non-profit group that monitors regional water resources.

An unusually strong high-pressure system over southeast Brazil has blocked the summer rains in recent weeks, causing Sao Paulo's main reservoir to fall to just 20.9 percent of its capacity as of Wednesday, its lowest level in a decade. January was the hottest month on record in the city and meteorologists expect little rain or relief in the next week.

Some small cities in Sao Paulo state have already seen water shortages and rationing imposed.

Any decisions about water rationing in the Sao Paulo metropolitan area, which has an estimated population of 20 million, ultimately reside with the state government and Sabesp, the region's water utility.

Sabesp has not responded to numerous requests by Reuters over the past week to discuss the outlook for rationing.

Sao Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin said on Tuesday that if rains return to the region by February 15, rationing in the city of Sao Paulo should be avoidable.

But water levels are so low that rationing should have started already, according to the PCJ Consortium, a non-profit group that monitors rivers feeding into the Cantareira System, as the main reservoir is known. The group is supported by area municipalities and several large companies.

"I would have already shut off the tap" to consumers on a controlled basis, the group's project manager, José Cezar Saad, told Reuters.   Continued...

 
Water markers indicating where water level used to be are seen at Jaguary dam, as the dam dries up over a long drought period in the state of Sao Paulo, in Braganca Paulista, 100km (62 miles) from Sao Paulo January 31, 2014. REUTERS/Nacho Doce