Reservoir at 5 Percent Capacity: Climate Change to Leave Sao Paulo’s 20 Million Without Water By November?

Suffering from its worst drought in over 84 years, the city of Sao Paulo is in the midst of a crisis. For as of this weekend the city’s primary reservoir — the Cantareira — had dropped to just 5 percent capacity putting millions at risk of losing access to water.

The fall prompted the city’s governor — Geraldo Alckmin — to again ask for permission to draw emergency water supplies from below flood gates to alleviate catastrophic losses from the Cantareira and ensure water supplies to the region’s 20 million residents. The move would tap a river system that feeds two other states also facing water shortages — Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais.  But the draw is only a temporary stop gap and, without rain, the Cantareira will continue to fall — bottoming out sometime this November.


(Dam and section of Cantareira Reservoir high and dry under incessant drought conditions. Image source: Linhas Populares.)

Don’t Use the ‘R’ Word

The Cantareira provides water to nearly 50 percent of Sao Paulo’s residents. But ever since February of 2014 the multi-year long drought, a drought that has featured less and less seasonal rainfall over time, has triggered reduced water access by city and state residents.

Those living within areas served by the Cantareira have been treated to increasing periods of dry taps — being forced to go for longer and longer without available water supply. The intermittent lack of water service has put a strain on businesses and residents alike with many people living in Sao Paulo being forced to abstain from washing, cooking and brewing. For now, water for drinking can be stored during times when the faucets flow. But that time could come to an end all too soon without a change in the weather.

“Sometimes I have no water for two days, then it comes back on the next day and the day after that, I have no water again,” said Zeina Reis da Cruz, a 55 year old resident of one of Sao Paulo’s lower income neighborhoods in a September 25 interview with The Globe and Mail.

Despite an ongoing and growing failure to provide water services, the city refuses to use the word ‘rationing.’ Such an admission of failure would have weighed heavily on Alckmin’s re-election campaign (Alckmin was just recently elected to a new term as governor). Instead, irate citizens and businesses making calls to utilities are simply told that there is nothing wrong with the water supply and to wait until the water comes back on.

Regardless of politically-motivated denials, water rationing is the most accurate way to describe what many Sao Paulo residents have been experiencing for 9 months now under a regime of systemic drought that just grows steadily worse with time.

Climate Change Spurred by Deforestation, Worsened By Atmospheric Heating

The great forest of the Amazon provides a rich source of water for both Brazil and surrounding countries. It captures as much as 80 percent of the tropical atmosphere’s heavy moisture load and re-circulates it locally – providing ongoing and consistent rains. A critical means of replenishing regional water sources.

But, over recent decades, a combination of clear cutting and human-spurred warming of the climate have been adding severe stresses to the Amazon. During the period of 2000 to 2010, the great rainforest lost 93,000 square miles of wooded land alone to clear cutting. By 2014, government restrictions had brought down the rate of loss to around 2,300 square miles per year, but by this time warming-related impacts to the Amazon were looking even more dire.

As the 2000s progressed, it was becoming ever-more-clear that a heating climate driven by human fossil fuel emissions was taking an increasing toll. For, during recent decades, the Amazon has been warming at a rate of around 0.25 C every ten years — about twice as fast as the global climate system. The added heat increased evaporation, pushing soil moisture levels below critical thresholds.

Drought Map South America

(It’s not just Sao Paulo, most of South America is showing ongoing rainfall deficits. Map provided by NOAA shows percent of normal precipitation received by South America this summer. Note the severe drying over much of the Amazon Rainforest and broader South America coupled with drought over Sao Paulo. Image source: Climate Prediction Center.)

This loss has, in turn, increased the prevalence of forest-destroying understory fires. And, according to a 2012 NASA study these understory fires have been burning away the Amazon at the rate of more than 30,000 square miles every ten years for nearly two decades. By late this Century, business as usual fossil fuel emissions and related warming of 4 degrees Celsius is expected to destroy about 85 percent of the Amazon, resulting in widespread desertification of a once-lush region.

Today, this period of initial drying caused by a human heating of the atmosphere appears to be putting the stability of Brazil’s most populous city at risk.

A Major Humanitarian Disaster

Typically for October, Sao Paulo receives between 80 and 100 mm of rainfall. So far this month, the number is approaching zero. Long range forecasts bring that total to just above 50 mm through the end of the month — about half the usual rainfall. Very dry for a month that is supposed to be the start of Sao Paulo’s rainy season, a period that usually runs from October through March. A rainy season once fed by a now greatly endangered and increasingly moisture-impoverished Amazon rainforest.

It would take a massive rainfall to replenish Sao Paulo’s reserves. The kind of rain event that would result in widespread devastation should it emerge. Now, city officials appear to be holding out for any rain to tip the scales on their swiftly shrinking water stores.

But if the worse happens. If this year is a repeat of last year which saw a parched rainy season. If the rains of October and November continue to delay or do not emerge at all, then Sao Paulo faces a terrible event. A complete drying out of its largest water store and a complete cut-off of water supplies for millions of residents.

It’s like Paulo Nobre, director of the Center for Weather Forecasting and Climate Studies at the National Institute for Space Research in Brasilia, recently noted:

“It will be a real humanitarian disaster if it happens. We are 20 million people: You can’t bring water on trucks for 20 million. So they are praying that rainfall will come – but it may not rain so much.”


Sao Paulo Water Supply at Risk in Extreme Drought

Unprecedented Drought Puts Sao Paulo Water Supply at Risk

Brazil Drought Crisis Deepens in Sao Paulo

Climate Conditions Determine Amazon Forest Fire Risk

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center

Reversal of Fortune: Amazon Deforestation Increased by 28 Percent Over Past Year

Amazon Could Shrink by 85% Due to Climate Change

Sao Paulo Weather Forecast

Linhas Populares

Impacts of Deforestation

(Hat tip to Andy)

(Hat tip to Colorado Bob)

Leave a comment


  1. earthfriendrick

     /  October 13, 2014

    Thanks Robert! It is hard to even follow this unfolding disaster on conventional news outlets…

    • It’s here and there. Requires quite a lot of digging…

      • Any perspective on the comparison of the amazon droughts in 2005 and 2010. Both of them were termed as 100-year droughts… but this one seems very serius as well. And well in line with some of the more “pessimistic” climate models (Cox et al.) …

    • james cole

       /  October 13, 2014

      I second your thoughts. Anyone who follows Main Stream Media is totally out of the loop of the unfolding climate disaster. I read Robert’s blog which more than makes up for MSM deliberate cover up of climate change, or as I like to call it. Global Warming.
      The forest fire threats in the rain forest must now be extreme, this feedback is alive and well, as the Amazon fire fighting teams have made clear whenever anyone cares to ask them.

  2. It’s a terrible situation in Brazil, Robert.
    A very excellent and informative post, thanks.
    I tweeted this pst to Democracy Now. they like to cover nasty events — usually after the fact (snicker).

  3. Typhoon Vongfong hits Japan islands amid landslide fears

    • With all that rain over the past few months…

    • james cole

       /  October 13, 2014

      Looks like part of the rain fall event over land will occur on the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The one with three melted cores, somewhere in the ground. Worse still, the spent fuel ponds inside badly damaged housings, ripe for failure in wind, rain or earthquake events. Here is another case of Main Stream Media, case closed. The report was that the cores were now in cold shut down! I only have enough nuke knowledge as the Navy gave us, but it is enough to know the Fukushima cores, the three damaged ones have escaped containment, and TEPCO does not know there present positions. Ground water and rain fall both flow over these damage cores. What Nuclear Plant is next, when climate disaster unleashes a super storm. Coastal stations were built for easy access to water, river sights as well. So flooding? Sea level rise? Threats for the near future?

  4. uknowispeaksense

     /  October 13, 2014

    Reblogged this on uknowispeaksense and commented:

  5. Andy (at work)

     /  October 13, 2014

    The forest in the Amazon provides the water for Sao Paolo and the southern portion of the Amazon basin. It is done through an “atmospheric river” called the “Flying River”. The trees provide the moisture for this, each tree provides ~1000 litres / day.

    At a spacing of 20×20 feet, one can put 109 trees / acre.
    A square mile is 640 acres.
    93,000 sq miles (chopped down) = 10,137,000 trees.
    10,137,000 trees at ~1000 litres/day = ~10,137,000,000 litres of water pulled out of the atmosphere in the region.

    This appears to be unrepairable by simply hoping for rain. Rain will not replace that moisture from the air. One needs a method to retain and radiate that rainfall back into the atmosphere otherwise it just runs off.

    • The trend is for increasing drought. These regions will have to learn to function better and to reduce the damage as much as possible if they’re going to make it. Brazil had a wealth of fresh water. But now it’s losing it.

    • In any case, the figures I saw were in the range of 300 liters per day:

      Still quite a lot of water lost. Add to that the drying impact caused by the extra heat due to the human forcing and it’s a powerful combination.

    • At 300 liters we’re still at ~3 billion liters (760 million gallons). That is ~ 2332 acre feet. I would go with the more conservative value ( 300 liters ).

      Per Capita, Sao Paolo citizens use an average of 180 liters / day. Population is ~ 11.5 million. Water requirement at that rate is ~2 billion liters / day.

      Not all of that 3 billion carried in the atmosphere is earmarked for Sao Paolo, however a portion is (I can’t find a value for that unfortunately). But if even only 25% winds up in their water shed, then they are at a deficit of 750 million liters / day.

      This equates to 4,166,666 residents worth of water @ 180 liters. By losing this water source, the population needs to drop to ~7 million, unless of course other sources are hampered (in which case the locale can support less inhabitants).

      Mathematically it just doesn’t work without a significant solution. And I suspect the other cities tied to the rivers will fight tooth and nail to not allow their supplies to be cannibalized.

      The wealthy will get their water, however slums and marginalized will bear this burden first.

      • The water system itself leaks about 40 percent of the water transported and efficiency measures are practically non existent. Although, with the case of São Paulo it may be a little too late for systemic changes.

        If the reservoir goes, the region gets into a water conflict trying to reapportion water between various thirsty and already in deficit regions.

        So we are clearly in crisis.

  6. Andy (at work)

     /  October 13, 2014

    Greenland still getting melt. Bit late in the year for that.

    • NE region at -22 C now. So that melt is probably a bit if an artifact. That said NW region is well above average temps — even if it is -5 C even at the coast.

  7. entropicman

     /  October 13, 2014

    Historically cities such as Chaco canyon were abandoned as climate changed to drier conditions. Might Sao Paulo become the first modern example?

    • Possible. Although Brazil still has quite a lot of water. They just manage it very poorly.

    • I would see Sanaa, Yemen going first. Yemen is at zero rainfall, and they are now drilling 1 km+ down to find water. With close to 2m people the water deficit is acute. I could see that city being abandoned first.

  8. Colorado Bob

     /  October 13, 2014

    Suffering from its worst drought in over 84 years,

    I would remind folks, that the Brazilian records begin 84 years ago. It would be interesting to know just how unprecedented this drought is.

  9. – Polar ice and snow sidebar:
    Robert, maybe you are familiar with this link. I don’t remember a reference to it. It’s The Cryosphere Today from U of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Department of Atmospheric Sciences Polar Research Group. It packs a lot of data/graphics.

  10. Colorado Bob

     /  October 14, 2014

    Towards the poles: tropical cyclones on the move

    For years we have known that the tropics are expanding towards the poles. However, there is something decidedly destructive accompanying that shifting warm weather: tropical cyclones.

    In a recent study led by Dr. James Kossin from the NOAA National Climatic Data Center, researchers discovered that cyclones are reaching their maximum intensity farther towards the poles than before. On average, these storm systems have been peaking in intensity towards the north and south poles at a rate of 53 and 62 kilometres (33 and 39 miles) per decade respectively.

    The researchers unexpectedly came upon this while they were studying something else: the upper-atmosphere temperatures above tropical cyclones.

    • And the northward moving cyclones make the leap in latitude just in time for land ice melt to intensify the polar storm track. Sandy was prelude.

      • Colorado Bob

         /  October 14, 2014

        Heat seeks a condenser . The condensers are shrinking . in the low altitudes, and low latitudes. That’s why storms are going to the top of troposphere more and more. And moving to the poles.

  11. wili

     /  October 14, 2014

    So really, though–What happens if this goes down? Are people going to just die of thirst where they are? Are they going to all try to migrate somewhere? Where? How? I would imagine that if they all go toward the same city, that municipality will quickly be overwhelmed and collapse, itself, triggering further migration…a domino effect.

    Are people starting to panic yet? Does anyone here know anyone down there? Or know enough Portuguese to tell us what the local papers are saying, and what posters to local forums are saying?

    (Sorry for all the questions. Sao Paulo is the biggest city in one of the largest countries in the world. We may be about to see just how a modern nation implodes. We may be next if things don’t improve, but for us it will be our our largest state, CA, that dries up and sends a wave of refugees out through the rest of the over-stressed system.)

    • LJR

       /  October 14, 2014

      I’ve read that more than 80% of CA water use is for agriculture. There is plenty for the urban populations if CA stops growing food along with some landscaping restraint. Therefore I doubt we will see mass migrations. Life is going to be a misery in the Central Valley though – that’s for sure. LA and San Diego residents can do a lot to reduce water use. The CA situation is serious but not comparable to that in Sao Paulo.

      • Colorado Bob

         /  October 14, 2014


        Check “Full Pool” numbers for Lake Meade.

      • I think we see migration from Central Valley as the ag-based communities go into decline. At some point, sea level rise takes a toll on Central Valley as well.

    • Colorado Bob

       /  October 14, 2014


      Sao Paulo is the biggest city in South America.

      As for all your questions , this whole thing is the largest uncontrolled chemistry experiment in the history of the world. What better place to run one of it’s by product experiments ( 20 million people with no water ) than the largest city in South America.

      Another knock on effect as we are seeing in California , is there’s no water to spin the turbines in Brazil, so they are running out power as well as water.

      And their ag exports are taking a hit as well. Coffee has been soaring because of this drought. Oddly enough Coco prices will soar as well , Ebola is attacking that crop.

  12. Steve Bloom

     /  October 14, 2014

    It’s not clear to me that good local water management would serve to get them out of this one more than temporarily. At some point the combination of increasing population and decreasing rainfall was bound to bite. Contrast southeast Brazil to California, where our direct exposure to Pacific storms and mountains sufficient to catch much of that moisture mean that while a repeat of the medieval megadrought would do great damage to agriculture, the urban population wouldn’t be inconvenienced much.

    • Apneaman

       /  October 14, 2014

      I wouldn’t bank on it. California gets 60 percent of it’s water from the shrinking snow pack.

      • Colorado Bob

         /  October 14, 2014

        And the falling pool numbers at Lake Meade, which mean less and less power comes out of the dam. the people in Brazil are up against this rule as well.

        Who of us 5 years ago would have forecast two of the most powerful states on Earth would be on their knees , because they had no water.

        They are not only losing water, they are losing power.

        California and Brazil have much in common now. Both are awaiting their wet season.

      • Steve Bloom

         /  October 14, 2014

        Snow in the Sierras acts a natural reservoir for the dry season. While there will be some precipitation reduction going forward, the main issue is the substantial loss of that reservoir due to snow turning to rain and early melting of what snow there is. But taking all of that into account, there’s still plenty of water for urban users (a small fraction of current use, note). Agriculture, not so much: A recent paper found that ag water use would have to drop by about half in the event of a megadrought repeat. Some small towns will have to be abandoned too, but overall the affected population would be small. Currently, ag is only about 4% of the state’s economy, so as catastrophes go it won’t even be that painful.

        Bob makes a good point about hydropower, but that will be reduced, not eliminated, and it seems clear that we will be able to largely shift wind and solar over the next few decades.

        Lest anyone think I’m being too sanguine about all of this, projections seem to indicate that many of the major food-producing regions around the world, by no means just California, are going to take major long-term hits. Add all those up and it spells big, big trouble.

    • Managing water better would help, if they have the time to make those changes. If all the cities in the region became 40 percent more efficient, then sharing water becomes quite a bit easier. It’s important to remember that 12 percent of the world’s fresh water once fell over Brazil. They had an embarrassment of riches and didn’t manage it very well.

      The key is to save that forest and to halt as much global warming as possible, though. Otherwise Brazil’s agriculture and cities are in the cross-hairs for a rather intense decline.

  13. Colorado Bob

     /  October 14, 2014

    63. DonnieBwkGA
    2:31 AM GMT on October 14, 2014
    Hopefully the rainy season will produce well this summer in Sao Paulo

    I hope it rains too, but it won’t , They have cut down and burnt down enough of their forest to change their water cycle.

    DonnieBwkGA: – When you go to bed tonight I want to hear the roar of chain saws in forests you never dreamed of. .

    Because they are at work . And we will cut down the last tree to make the last buck. That is out nature. , if we didn’t have Teddy Roosevelt the Western US would be bald.

    Sadly there is no Teddy in Brazil, or Southeast Asia . And are all paying a heavy price.

    By the way , we kill the last elephant in Africa for the last tusk.

    We will destroy the Earth for our vanity and pleasure .

  14. I often read the hit-pieces from the paid denial mills and the comment sections to gauge what people think (are they fooled?) and sometimes for a laugh and a groan. This is from the comment sections of one of heartlands paid bits they pump out as “news” today as the usual gruel was being served up and they had gotten to the Al Gore bit.

    Manmade global warming was discovered in the 1830s. The radiative properties of CO2 were measured in 1896. Gore hadn’t been born yet.
    rhetorical1 9.8m/ss • 5 hours ago
    If there were dangerous amounts of radio activity we would all be dead by now and all the arguments you can throw my way would be moot.
    jack dale rhetorical1 • 5 hours ago
    Classic unconscious incompetence.
    9.8m/ss rhetorical1 • 5 hours ago
    Nobody’s looking. You can look up the definition of “radiative” now.
    DavidAppell rhetorical1 • 5 hours ago
    He’s not talking about “radioactivity,” dimwit.
    DavidAppell rhetorical1 • 5 hours ago

  15. NYT U.S.
    Pentagon Signals Security Risks of Climate Change
    WASHINGTON — The Pentagon on Monday released a report asserting decisively that climate change poses an immediate threat to national security, with increased risks from terrorism, infectious disease, global poverty and food shortages. It also predicted rising demand for military disaster responses as extreme weather creates more global humanitarian crises.

    The report lays out a road map to show how the military will adapt to rising sea levels, more violent storms and widespread droughts. The Defense Department will begin by integrating plans for climate change risks across all of its operations, from war games and strategic military planning situations to a rethinking of the movement of supplies.

    Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, speaking Monday at a meeting of defense ministers in Peru, highlighted the report’s findings and the global security threats of climate change.
    Continue reading the main story
    “The loss of glaciers will strain water supplies in several areas of our hemisphere,” Mr. Hagel said. “Destruction and devastation from hurricanes can sow the seeds for instability. Droughts and crop failures can leave millions of people without any lifeline, and trigger waves of mass migration.”

    • The Pentagon’s “Adaptation RoadMap” pdf may be worth a quick scan just to see how they are organizing their concerns, and the language they use.
      Since researching how and when an Air Pollution Emergency can be implemented I’ve gotten interested in mechanics of Executive Orders and similar high level decision “devices”.
      In California it’s under Rule 701 which the Governor can declare — but, and here’s the catch, it applies only to fixed,single sources. If it’s a multitude of mobile sources i.e. vehicles etc. — the federal gov. has jurisdiction. On climate change, Portland, Oregon has it’s set of rules to follow when confronted with climate change.
      So, re: The Roadmap:
      This 2014 update to the Roadmap fulfills the requirements of a Climate Change Adaptation Plan found in Executive Orders 13514 and 13653.
      Executive Order 13514 requires that all Federal Departments and Agencies evaluate climate change risks and vulnerabilities to manage both the short -­- and long term effects of climate change on the agency’s mission and operations, and include an adaptation planning document as an appendix…”

    • The military has been sounding this alarm for years. I suppose republican senators and house members are no longer qualified to speak on defense matters either?

  16. Shocking. I haven’t been following the climate effects in South America very closely. Thanks for posting.

  17. – Good photos here:
    Super-typhoon Vongfong Seen Closing in on Japan From Space [PHOTOS] October 13, 2014 12:44 IST
    The typhoon was caught on camera by the International Space Station which posted the stunning visuals online. Astronaut Reid Wiseman, who shared some photos on Twitter, said, “I’ve seen many from here, but none like this”.

  18. bassman

     /  October 14, 2014

    Posted this on the sea ice blog.

    JMA is the warmest on record for September. I think it’s safe to say that JMA will have 2014 as the warmest on record. I haven’t run the numbers yet but it was already in first place for the year Before Sept.

    1st. 2014(+0.34°C), 2nd. 2013(+0.26°C), 3rd. 2012(+0.25°C), 4th. 2009,2005(+0.22°C)

  19. wili

     /  October 14, 2014

    jja just posted this over at SkS, and I wondered if robert or anyone else with the chops would comment:

    ” ‘Recent research has suggested that the lower climate sensitivity estimates preferred by Curry, Lewis, and other contrarians are likely incorrect because they fail to account for different efficiencies of different climate influences, and underestimate the amount of global warming in the oceans.’

    Can we have a frank discussion about this paper? I have run a few comparisons using Nuccitelli et. al. 2013 data set and have found that this reanalysis of southern hemisphere ocean heat radically changes things. On the high end, it shows a 30% increase in Top of Atmosphere energy imbalance. (green line is bets fit slope of Nuccitelli curve with projections going forward).

    This reanalysis shows that the current TOA is closer to .9 Wm^-2. It also indicates that, while the northern hemisphere values appear to be correct, this likely indicates that NH Aerosols are significantly understated as well, possibly by a factor of 2.

    If the energy accumulation raties continue along the best-fit curve then we are going to be experiencing catastrophic heat accumulation rates in only a few decades.

    This not only makes lower ECS and TCR values unlikely (impossible) but also shifts the most likely value up by 20% or more (3.6C vs 3) and the Fat tail is even fatter with a potential ECS of 8C.

    Am I reading this wrong?”

    • ESS of 8 C would be very high…

      I think you’re right, though, in the sense that these new values make the contrarians turned Luke-warmer arguments practically moot. And we should probably have assumed as much given the source of the ‘data.’

      My opinion on the ECS vs ESS matter is that the slow feedbacks aren’t quite so slow as assumed. That the heat forcing changes the ocean and ice more radically than we realized and that the ECS value will tend to assume more of the end ESS value.

      As such, I don’t think this changes the fat tail so much as front loads more warming into the ECS value. So ESS is probably still in the range of 6 C but what we are looking at is more immediate impacts this Century.

      I’ll take a look at those top of the atmosphere values…

    • wili

       /  October 14, 2014

      “the slow feedbacks aren’t quite so slow as assumed”
      Epitaph for a planet?

  20. I was having coffee this morning and looking at a few graphs of data + proxy data for California and the northern hemisphere. I was simply lining things up (no hard data grinding, simply anecdotal observance).

    If you look at the past 1000 years of northern hemisphere temperature departures, and observe the net positive departures, they line up perfectly with the droughts through California history ( I used data that went back to 800 AD for California. Back to 1000 AD for northern hemisphere).

    If you look at the recent departures, through the 90’s the positive departures are within the range of extreme spikes over the previous 1000 years (through the 90’s the delta was roughly the same as the worst extremes in the past 1000 years which caused the mega droughts).

    However after 2000AD, the departure is in new territory that does not show up in the previous 1000 years (~+0.15 over the previous proxy maximum around ~1250AD). The 1250AD deltas line up perfectly with a 100 year long mega drought. Since we are now in new territory, there is always the chance that previous behavior will not be repeated, but then again….

    Perhaps later today, I’ll assemble a graph or info graph with the observation.

    • bassman

       /  October 14, 2014

      Thanks for that Andy. Disturbing to say the least.

    • Steve Bloom

       /  October 14, 2014

      Right, Andy, but the science that’s been done on this hasn’t neglected that issue. Probably a key point is that California’s precipitation situation is much more straightforward than that of many places, e.g. Sao Paulo. For us, the northward shift of the storm track consequent to the expansion of the tropics is having the obvious result (albeit that SoCal can probably expect to get some added summer moisture as tropical storms also move north). Globally, though, the fact that circulation changes are making the hydrological past a poor guide to the future is going to bite everyone hard, directly or indirectly.

      • I think you’re right, Steve Bloom. Modern California has its unique circumstances. Are we not in uncharted meteorological territory? I’m not sure what will cause the summertime monsoons to veer away from Baja and Arizona, and head to California.
        Brazil deforested its life giving rivers of moisture. California has dregraded, or decimated, its aquifers via overpumping. Both are purposeful actions.
        Just some thoughts.

    • I think the current positive delta increases the likelihood of a new mega drought similar to but, potentially, worse than those that occurred in the past. That’s what we see this decade. Next decade, as the positive delta pushes to +0.25 to +0.3, will include greater risks –and on as time moves forward.

      The issue is that the added heat takes out more of the soil moisture. Since much of this new moisture loss has no physical means for local recapture, then the prevalence is more toward drought.

  21. Marcos

     /  October 15, 2014

    Hi, I’m from Brazil. First I would like to say that this crisis is being omitted by the government. Alckmin, for example, say that is “no risc of shortage”. It is a completely lie.

    I live in Piracicaba, SP. And the river of here depends of the Cantareira. In this moment the river is almost completely dry. In some cities, like ITU, Sao Paulo, 200 000 people are already waterless for days. It is a caos.

    We already have more 10 percent of water, after this 5 percent. But, the system is already collapsed, in june of this year. Sao Paulo will certainly without water in 2015. And this is a tragedy!

    Population until did not accept this reality. Who would have thought the biggest city in South America would be without water?

    The caos is coming…hydroelectric plants is in about 20% of capacity. No water. No energy.

    That God save us…

    Sorry for my bad english.

    • Marcos —

      Very, very sorry to hear about all the trouble there in Brazil. Given your description, it seems problems are even worse than what the reports coming out describe.

      For those of us who are not aware of all the districts surrounding Sao Paulo, could you give us an overview? Would you mind also telling us if/how the city/state government is responding?

      For my part, I find it difficult to believe that officials aren’t even willing to acknowledge the water issue. How can problems be addressed if they’re not recognized? How can a response be mobilized?

      Please feel free to drop in and let us know how the situation progresses.

      My warmest regards to you and your family and my continued wishes that you remain safe!


  22. wili

     /  October 15, 2014

    Now it’s down to 4.5%…and shrinking.
    At least the government finally acknowledged that there is a problem…sort of.

  23. Marcos

     /  October 17, 2014

    Hi again, first I would like to thanks the support.

    So, now about 14 milion of people is already no water for days, including Sao Paulo, Campinas, ITU, Americana, and others small cities. In Piracicaba (SP), where I live, about 100 000 people are waterless, but in my house, to be in a central region, until have water normally.

    About the government, the officials still deny the crisis. It may seem strange, but the political system of Brazil is a complete garbage. Unfortunately, the authorities has no the decency to show the severity of the problem

    But, the problem is getting worse each day. There is no more way to hide. Nevertheless, the federal courts is suing the state government for this crisis in Sao Paulo.

    They blame the lack of rain for everything. They forget that the population of Sao Paulo doubled in recent decades, exponentially. There was no investment in new reservoirs in 40 years.

    Now, this time, the weather is a complete desert in Sao Paulo. The weather is very strange. There is no cloud in the sky. This occurred only in dry seasons, such as winter. Now I feel like we’re in the desert.

    If the climate really changed, it will be the end of Brazil. We are desperate. If there is a summer with little rain, in 2015 we will be without electrical power also, as I said.

    I hope I have brought some useful information…


    • Marcos —

      The situation with the weather was caused by a combination of cutting down trees in the amazon — breaking the rain forest’s ability to trap and keep water in the Brazil region — and human warming of the atmosphere. The extra heat draws water out of the soil faster, contributing to an already difficult problem.

      So dry times will tend toward being even drier. And wet times will be less wet, but when it does rain it will come more in the form of a large deluge.

      Brazil will have major difficulty dealing with this trend. If it is slow, perhaps Brazil can adapt. If it is fast, and resources aren’t aimed at very strict water management, greatly increased efficiency, and gaining water from other sources, then it may well be ongoing chaos for the state.

      For one, Brazil could stop all clear cutting in the Amazon. This would certainly help matters. Getting rid of many of those cattle farms and animal ranches would help together with a shift toward less meat intensive agriculture. If the reclaimed land is planted with trees, perhaps some of the drought cycle could be broken. Population will have to be brought down over time. This is true with most of the world and can be done with responsible family planning practices.

      But with climate change emerging, Brazil will also have to fight a battle at home and on a global level for rapidly reducing carbon emissions. The science indicates that the rain forest simply cannot survive a 4 C warming this Century. And any additional warming just makes matters worse.

      Brazil can now add itself to a group of states including the low-lying island nations, places in the Middle East like Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen who are under immediate existential threat from climate change. This group is growing and would do best to work together to fight for pathways that prevent harm to their nations. Some will, unfortunately, lose as we are now rather far advanced in the crisis. But since this is an existential fight it simply must be fought. You owe it to yourselves, your children, your future.

      In the end, all of humankind is in your situation. Some of us just don’t realize it yet.

      Warmest regards to you! I will hope the weather changes somewhat for the sake of São Paulo and Brazil in the near term. But, in the longer term, without changes to the way humans act, burn fossil fuel, and use resources, there is little hope for the long term.

  24. June Roullard

     /  October 19, 2014

    Bad news…deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon increased 190% in August and September, compared to last year. Going backwards.

  25. wili

     /  October 21, 2014

    Now down to 3.3% at Cantareira. (robert, should you be updating the headline??)

    “Water Crisis Seen Worsening as Sao Paulo Nears ‘Collapse’”

    ” Sao Paulo residents were warned by a top government regulator today to brace for more severe water shortages as President Dilma Rousseff makes the crisis a key campaign issue ahead of this weekend’s runoff vote.

    “If the drought continues, residents will face more dramatic water shortages in the short term,” Vicente Andreu, president of Brazil’s National Water Agency and a member of Rousseff’s Workers’ Party, told reporters in Sao Paulo. “If it doesn’t rain, we run the risk that the region will have a collapse like we’ve never seen before,” he later told state lawmakers …

    Sabesp is struggling to find new ways to supply greater Sao Paulo after the drought turned its Cantareira reservoir, which serves half of Sao Paulo, into a dried-up bed of cracked earth. What’s left of the four-lake complex are sediment-filled pools in the center — so-called dead reserves — that were previously untappable until Sabesp built 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) of pipes to drain the water.

    Water levels fell to 3.3 percent of capacity at Cantareira and 8.5 percent at Sabesp’s Alto Tiete reservoir, according to the company’s website.”

  26. A very good article .. i am English (46 years old) i moved to Brazil , Sao Paulo about 15 months ago , i married a Brazilian Woman .. in response to some of the comments on here i will say this , Most of the people i meet are Ignorant to all this !! that is the plain and simple fact of it .. there is absolutely no information , basically its a big cover up .. we here in Villa Formosa (just outside the the center) have experienced no water from 8pm to 6am every night for 2 months now . even in my household when i speak of planning ahead by increasing our storage of water i am looked at as strange , it seems that most people believe it will rain and everything will be ok .. the problem is 4 fold as this article refers too .. over population is one of the biggest attributes to this coupled with a reservoir system that can only sustain 60% +/- of the population .. secondly is the main river that flows through the city , this is so polluted that instead of being a life line in times like this it has become a threat , mainly because the open sewer problem here (no mainstream will report on that) .. thirdly the attitude towards water usage is so wrong here , most of Sao Paulo is “concreted” over , nearly all houses are “patio” as we say in England .. the air here is very dirty and nearly all these houses need hosing down daily , all this water runs straight into the sewer and then on to the already polluted river , this waste of water is immense , i see this every day as i walk to stores or drive around .. and lastly as this article explains the deforestation is and will effect Brazil , what will it take for them to see this , i am no climatologist but i can see the difference in just 1 year , it is November 18th now and i haven’t seen 1 major rain storm yet here , this is scary .. Sao Paulo is fed by a hydro electric dam , i see things getting much worse here very very quickly .. in summary it comes down to education of the populous , no one is educating the people on what to do so people just continue as normal .. i for one will pray for rain but i feel this is only a temporary reprieve from the inevitable collapse that will come ..

    • The great turning away for Sao Paulo’s plight is both local and global. We are acting in a highly amoral fashion. Huge risk to lives and livelihood here.

  1. UN News: Global food production up, prices down. Huh? | Exopermaculture
  2. Seemorerocks: Catastrophic drought in Brazil | Enjeux énergies et environnement

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