Sao Paulo Could Run Out of Water by June

Written by Stacey Leasca

Yesterday we told you about a NASA scientist who estimates that the state of California has about one year left of water, which is bad, but not nearly as bad as São Paulo.

The water situation in São Paulo is so bad, that South America’s largest city will likely run out of water in June. As in about 2-and-a-half months from now.

That is the estimate set forth by Brazil’s own government.

According to Climate.Gov, the region is experiencing its worst drought in 80 years.

“The reservoirs that service the metro area of São Paulo and its 20 million residents were only at 8.9 percent of capacity during the middle of February, a shockingly low level.”

The Associated Press reported in January that the biggest problem may be the Cantareira water system. That system is the largest of six reservoirs that provide water to nearly one-third of the people living in the metropolitan area of São Paulo city.

“The water supply situation is critical and could become even more critical if the lack of rain and hot weather continue and effective demand management techniques are not created,” Mario Thadeu Leme de Barros, head of the University of São Paulo’s hydraulic engineering and environmental department, told the AP by phone in January.

Good news? Some rain at the end of February bumped them up to 11 percent.

As notes, low water levels are affecting more than just the drinkable stuff.

“The low water levels have also impacted electricity outputs, as hydroelectric dams simply cannot produce as much energy with reduced water flows.”

The government has announced a potential water rationing program to help stem the issue as well as announced planned blackouts to conserve electricity.

This year’s water issue is compounded as it’s actually the second year in a row that the region has faced severe droughts during what is normally considered their rainy season.

PRI notes that in August of 2014, the city turned off the water supply to area homes.

Residents were forced to use public taps, and “neighbors fought neighbors as dozens of people swarmed around the faucet. The outage went on for weeks, stretching into September.”

Eventually water trucks were called in to bring water to homes, but never to the city’s poorer neighborhoods and favelas. Elsa Barbosa, who lives in the favela of Chácaras Reunidas Ypê, told PRI that she eventually had to to use water from a disused old well. “We had to boil it a lot,” she said. “There were stomach aches and vomiting.”

This time, the drought has become so severe that some Brazilians have taken any rainstorm as an opportunity to bathe themselves. As RYOT reported in February, “when rain hit São Paulo, residents took to the streets to shower and clean their cars.”

What’s to blame for this drought? A mix of Mother Nature and humans.

Delcio Rodrigues, physicist with the Alliance for Water, told API that an unusually hot air mass above much of South America, paired with the fact that nearly 20 percent of the Amazon rainforest has now been deforested, was the perfect recipe for disaster.

Worst of all, none of this was a surprise. In fact, the Brazilian government released a warning six years ago predicting this exact scenario in this exact timeframe.

The warning’s solution to the issue then? Stop deforestation now. Perhaps this time, people will listen.

This post originally appeared on RYOT.

Photo Credit: Milton Jung / Flickr


Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing!

Jane R.
Jane R4 years ago

If people won't listen this will soon be a problem world wide.
Find ways to cut back on your water usage. For starters, don't water lawns. We can live without a lawn but not without drinking water.

Marje Szelmeczka

The biggest (probably) misuse is the over flushing of toilets and older toilets. Also the wasteful water when one is running water from the hot water tap until it becomes warm.
San Paulo serves as a warning to all of us.

Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey4 years ago

But you can bet it won't be the politicians and public officials , who have ignored the warnings, that will suffer the worst from the water shortages

Victoria P.
Victoria P4 years ago

Stop deforestation now!

Mahmoud Khalil
Mahmoud Khalil4 years ago


Joseph Belisle
Joseph Belisle4 years ago

The contributing problems are numerous. But basically people refuse to listen to reason. Science is dismissed. Money and religion trumps sanity and we will pay the price.

Past Member 4 years ago


Danielle Esau
Dani Elle4 years ago

and still people refuse to stop reproducing at the rate of a virus. Well done humans!

Fred L.
Fred L4 years ago

It's going to be interesting to see how Brazil handles the negative ramifications of Sao Paulo's drought, overpopulation (12 million people) and extreme poverty as it compares to Rio's 2016 Olympic venue. Good luck to all the sailing competitors who have to navigate Guanabara Bay, home to raw sewage,super bacteria and a recent massive fish die off. As others have said, Mother Nature fights back.