March 2015

Drought in the concrete jungle - An overview of the problem

Although the actual drought is affecting several areas in Brazil it has mainly influenced the central and southeast regions. Ironically the southeast used to be incredibly humid because of the nearby rainforest, which used to be the major natural vegetation in the past; however things have drastically changed over the years. Located in the area is the most populous city in the country, São Paulo, which has always been known as the drizzling land by Brazilian people. Even so, the climate phenomenon is present in it as well bringing then a number of questions to people’s minds. What exactly has modified the usual local conditions, lack of rainfall or bad management of water resources? Most importantly: Have we finally achieved the moment which potable water is becoming rarer than petroleum in specific areas?

Figure 1: Cantareira system - Jacareí reservoir (May, 2012 X April, 2014) [5]

Surely the subject has been spoken about more frequently since opening a tap and obtaining water at any time had changed. Currently, drinkable water is being recognised as rare as it is, or better said, a non-renewable resource. On the other hand, the water supply problem goes further in its complexity when it comes down to how it works. According to Bicudo et al, the prevalent crisis is not only influenced by the natural cycles anymore, but by anthropic factors as well [1]. It seems the concept of where it comes from and how the system works would be welcome to clarify the actual situation.

Earth has the same quantity of water since its origin. However, what is most intriguing is how can a city surrounded by rivers and located near a rainforest be suffering a lack of water? This may be answered by looking further in the country’s last years. Actually, the failure in water supply is not a surprise. It reflects from the political and economic crisis the country has been going through as well as the priorities invested by the Brazilian goverment. It is well known that proper accessibility of water is a public right, though in a practical situation things may vary. Around two decades ago Sabesp, São Paulo's water provider, decided to become a mixed capital company arguing that it would improve the service. The area has developed as well as having seen an increase in population. In spite of that, in recent years the company has invested very little in infrastructure even when the actual crisis was forecast long ago. Therefore, in the last decades instead of planning how to properly attend to the growing demand, their main goal was to generate profit to shareholders [2].

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