Brazilian Agency Recommends Water Rationing in São Paulo State
Watershed That Supplies 45% of Water to State Could Run Dry in 100 Days, Study Says
SÃO PAULO—Brazil’s federal agency tasked with protecting the common good recommended Tuesday that water be rationed in the parts of São Paulo state most affected by the region’s worst drought in decades.
The watershed known as the Cantareira System, which supplies 45% of the São Paulo metropolitan region, could run out of water in 100 days, according to a study cited by the Public Ministry.
Rationing should be implemented immediately in the areas of the state that get their water from Cantareira, the ministry said.
“Despite the delicate situation and the forecast for scarce rain in the next few months, the government of São Paulo has ruled out rationing” and only offered a discount on water bills to people who cut their water use, the ministry said in a note.
About 30% less rain fell this year through Monday in the watershed, exacerbating a situation already made bad by a 10% precipitation deficit in the same period last year, according to weather consultants Somar Meteorologia.
The first half of the year is the rainy season in São Paulo, when normally heavy rains help fill reservoirs that power hydroelectric stations and provide drinking water. The lack of rain has already hurt Brazil’s sugar and coffee crops, and forced manufacturers to reduce their water use.
São Paulo state’s governor, Geraldo Alckmin, has said that rationing won’t be necessary in São Paulo city and its metropolitan region, which is home to about 19 million people and much of Brazil’s industry.
The governor’s office referred a request by The Wall Street Journal for comment to São Paulo state’s water company, known as Sabesp.
Sabesp insisted the measures already implemented have cut water use by more than rationing would and that the company has enough water to supply the region until the rainy season starts again.
Rationing “would penalize the population and could produce the opposite effect of that (the Public Ministry) wants,” the company said in a statement. “Sabesp has 40 years of history and the best sanitation specialists in Latin America. We’re confident about the measures we’ve already taken.”