Sao Paulo’s Reservoirs are Drying Out When they Should Be Filling Up

It’s the rainy season for Brazil. But, thus far, adequate rains have not come.

A persistent high pressure system has lingered over Brazil. A blocking high of the kind that has now become so common with global temperatures spiking to more than +0.8 C above 1880s averages — thickening heat domes and granting these powerful weather systems an ever greater inertia. A set of circumstances that has set off a plethora of very severe droughts ranging the globe since the early 2000s.

During early 2015, Brazil’s own persistent atmospheric block re-strengthened over an Amazon whose water re-circulating abilities have been crippled by a combined deforestation and ever more prevalent wildfires. Ever since late December, the high has warded off cold front after cold front. The result is a terrible extension of the worst drought to impact Brazil in at least 80 years.

Southeast Brazil Drought January 11

(No rain in sight in the NASA MODIS satellite shot for Southeast Brazil on January 11, 2015. During a typical day in January, the wettest month for Sao Paulo, the satellite map should be filled with clouds and storms. Not so for 2014 and 2015. Image source: LANCE-MODIS.)

During December, this dogged weather system kept rainfall totals below average — at about 80 percent typical amounts for that time of year. But by January, the high had strengthened and only very weak rains had fallen over Southeastern Brazil with most other areas remaining dry. Now, drought appears to be re-establishing a strong grip as weather forecasts call for the typically strong January rains to be cut in half.

The ongoing drought has had serious and widespread impacts throughout Brazil — curbing production of everything from soybeans and sugarcane to coffee and cattle. But the worst impact has been to the water supplies of one of Brazil’s most populous regions — the Sao Paulo megalopolis. There, an unofficial water rationing has been in place since early 2014. A rationing that has hit Sao Paulo’s least advantaged residents the hardest.

Key Reservoir Drying Out When it Should Be Filling Up

Over the past six years, water levels for the Cantareira reservoir have been in free-fall. By 2014, an 80 year drought pushed already falling water levels radically lower. As an emergency measure, officials added dead pool volume — a level usually below municipal water inlets — to the reservoirs stated reserves. This move coincided with shifting water levels lower.

But the action only bought time for the failing reservoir as month after month of drought continued.

Dead Pool Volume Included

(Water losses from the Cantareira Reservoir since 2009. What this ominous graphic shows is that rainy season failure was not isolated to last year’s epic drought. It is instead part of a six year event that may well represent an ominous trend. Image source: Brazil Water)

By austral spring of 2014 (October), the Sao Paulo water system was again under dire threat. Water levels at the Cantereira reservoir fell to below 6% percent before officials diverted water from other sources and allowed use of water below even already lowered levels. This new arrangement moved water inlets deeper into the drying reservoir. An action that essentially dropped Canteriera outlets to city water supplies into the mud.

These emergency actions by city and water planners added another few percent to the radically diminished water supply. Hopes remained that rains would return with the wet season starting in November and that levels would rise enough to make it through the next summer.

But with rains remaining weaker than normal throughout November and December, water levels kept falling when they should have been rising. By early January, reservoir levels had again fallen to below 7 percent.

On Monday January 5, 2015 the level of Sao Paulo’s Cantariera reservoir was at 6.9% capacity. Today, just one week later, the same reservoir measured 6.5%.

9 Million Facing Lack of Water, Millions More at Risk

In total the Cantareira reservoir serves 9 million residents in Sao Paulo. These are mostly middle and lower class neighborhoods. And if the current weather situation continues, that reservoir could be empty come the start of the dry season in April. Such a situation would force an even more extreme water rationing on a state that has now become famous for water scarcity.

Unfortunately, Cantareira isn’t the only Sao Paulo reservoir under threat. In total, 5 out of 6 reservoirs representing the lion’s share of all water for more than 20 million people are now at 39 percent capacity or below.

The Sistema Alto Tiete — a smaller reservoir serving about 4 million Sao Paulo residents — is not far behind Cantareira. For as of today volume in this reservoir stood at 11.3 percent capacity. A third and fourth reservoir system — Rio Claro and Sistema Alto Cotia — now stand at 27.5% and 30.% capacity respectively. Together these two systems serve another 2 million people. The Guarapiranga reservoir, at 39.2 percent capacity as of 1/12/2015, serves another 4 million people.

A final Sao Paulo reservoir — the Sistema Rio Grande — serves about 2 million residents and remains just above 70 percent capacity.

If current forecasts for January hold and February-March follow present trends, then all these reservoirs with the probable exception of Sistema Rio Grande will be under threat entering the fast approaching dry season. A situation that would put nearly 20 million residents under severe threat of losing municipal water services.


In addition to Sao Paulo, recent reports show that 93 cities have rationed water services to ever-broadening populations. In total, more than 3.9 million people are estimated to have had their water rationed. In some cases, water has been cut off to broad areas for as long as five days.

This official water rationing began last year. But this year’s rationing is broader in scope with water cut offs, which were at first limited to isolated rural zones, now stretching into larger urban population centers.

As mentioned above with Sao Paulo, this water rationing is occurring during the rainy season when water supplies should be building. However, with rainfall totals for Brazil this summer far less than the historic average and with a continuation of the worst drought in more than 80 years, most reservoirs show dropping levels when they should be filling.

In total, what we see for Brazil is a sad example of what a combination of climate change and deforestation can do to a previously water rich region. Bad management in the face of this crisis and instances of climate change denial are exacerbating an already desperate situation there.


The Cantareira reservoir fell to 6.4% capacity on 1/13/2015 — a 0.5% loss in just 8 days. System losses at this rate bring the reservoir to zero in about 100 days. However, the current capacity, due to very low level of water outlets  may not be fully useable. In addition, rainy ends in April at which point levels would be expected to drop more precipitously.


Brazil’s Water Supply, Crops Still at Risk

In Brazil, Two Car Washes Have Wildly Different Experiences of the Same Drought

Drought Menaces Brazil’s Coffee Crop

Drought Vamps Up Brazil’s Cattle Prices


Off-Season Drought Makes 93 Brazilian Cities Cut off Water

Hat Tip to Andy in San Diego

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

Hat Tip to TodaysGuestIs

A Sao Paulo Resident Vents Frustrations Over Unfair Water Distribution and Mis-Managed Resources

Leave a comment


  1. climatehawk1

     /  January 12, 2015

    Nice! Tweet scheduled.

    • Cheers climate hawk.

      My bet is that global media pulls the trigger on the geo-engineering controversy this year. My bet is that climate change deniers are suddenly targeted for conversion by the monied interests…

      Starting to get nasty… We may see if pumping sea salt into rain clouds helps or hurts the current global drought situation. Roman legions once stuck with manually plowing salt into fields would be jealous.

      • joni

         /  January 13, 2015

        I think the deniers will remain deneirs I’m afraid. As has been mentioned here before, only the nature of denial is likely to change. Just like it did from global warmign to not being real, then to being a non-issue, then to humans not causing it and finally it being a human caused problem that is an existential risk that can be medicated into being a non-issue with geo-engineering.

        • Exactly… We’ll see the same news outlets saying —

          ”Well, for whatever reason, we here at Faux News do recognize the climate is warming. But the Murdoch chosen ‘experts’ here think you don’t have to worry because we can pump sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere, or spray salt into rain clouds. So please keep supporting our advertisers and don’t stop consuming fossil fuels. Because there’s no need to…” That’s what they’ll say. 😉

  2. climatehawk1

     /  January 12, 2015

    MITHI, Pakistan, Jan 3 2015 (IPS) – The main entrance to the Civil Hospital in Mithi, headquarters of the Tharparkar district in Pakistan’s southern Sindh Province, is blocked by a couple of men clad in traditional dress and turbans. They are trying to console a woman who is sobbing so heavily she has to gasp for breath.

    She lost her two-year-old son just moments ago and these men, both relations of hers, were the ones to carry the child into the hospital where doctors tried – and failed – to save him.

    Just a couple of yards away, a team of paramedics waits for the shell-shocked family to move on. They understand that the mother is in pain, but scenes like this have become a matter of routine for them: for the last two months they have witnessed dozens of people, mostly infants, die from starvation, unable to withstand the fierce drought that continues to grip this region.

  3. DanEJ

     /  January 13, 2015

    Here is another example of how the same climate issues affect the poor and the rich, but at a more macro level.

    Here in Perth, Australia, we have had reduced rainfall since 1975. It was a quite bizarre step change, with 1975 being the ‘tipping point’ – potentially the first documented climate shift due to anthropogenic climate change. Ever since, the rainfall in Perth has decreased and the inflow to our dams has reduced from 338 gigalitres a year through most of last century to an average of about 60 gigalitres a year between 2006 and 2013, with 2010 and 2012 both less than 20 gigalitres. The population has almost doubled in 10 years (to about 2 million – a magnitude less than in Sao Paulo).

    Perth is a rich city in a rich country. The average wages here are amongst the highest in the world. It’s not uncommon to earn AU$100,000 a year (about US$80,000/UK 53,000). Over the last decade the government-owned enterprise, the Water Corporation ( has been working to reduce our water use, and has been instrumental in delivering two desalination plants. These are still controversial, but at least the majority of their power use has been off-set by wind farms built especially for the purpose.

    Our water supplies are now on the road to ‘climate independence’, with ground water (replenished via sewer mining) and desalination and demand-side policies putting our water use on a downward trend and on a sustainable footing – which is quite an achievement for a city on the edge of a dessert.

    Tim Flannery famously (in Australia) said almost a decade ago that Perth might be the first major city to be abandoned due to climate change related drought. But our wealth has enabled us to continue. This is obviously a lucky position to be in and one that the vast majority of the world doesn’t share.

    Adaptation to climate change is far easier for the wealthy countries.

    • It’s a matter of degree. In a decade or two it’s likely those desalination plants will need to start walking inland…

      At first, it is relatively easy for wealthy countries to adapt to climate change. But it’s one of those issues that compounds — with negative interest — over time.

      Any country that is complacent about climate change simply due to wealth is begging for crises that it surely won’t be able to spend its way out of. GHG emission reduction is the only safe bet for reducing impacts. After that, it’s atmospheric carbon capture.

      Other geo-engineering is Russian roulette with the weather and geophysical nature of the Earth. And pure adaptation increasingly fails for more and more people with fewer and fewer able to afford the adaptation.

      Australia, even now, is dealing with waves of climate change refugees from various islands. Australia’s response, in some cases, has been highly amoral. But regardless of how brutal Australia becomes, the situation will grow worse. As some of Australia’s cities fall into the sacrifice zone, there will be internal displaced persons as well. It becomes very hard to maintain the internal stability that protects the diminishing pool of ‘safe’ persons.

      Beyond this line, we start looking at most of the world as wasteland. The live able zones are so small that the remaining human beings are basically bunker rats. That’s the end game for the wealthy’s adaptation.

      • DanEJ

         /  January 13, 2015

        Yes, Agreed that it’s an interim measure. Only rapid and substantial GHG reduction can change that. I’m not Australian born, and it’s highly frustrating to see the awful politics of both refugess and climate change this country has embraced. I think there’s a good chance that the illiterate Federal Government will be removed at the next election next year.

        • I sincerely hope so. The scientific illiteracy in both Australia and in countries like the US and Canada is shameful and quite self destructive.

          The near misses are increasingly coming to hit the disadvantaged. A story for the next ten years or so that may give the wealthy a false sense of security.

      • Nathan

         /  January 13, 2015

        I too live in Perth, Western Australia. I work as a hydrogeologist and Perth is lucky to be placed on an enormous aquifer that we have been depleting for the last thirty years. The most obvious solution for Perth’s water shortage is simply water recycling, and they have a test plant operational, recharging the Leederville aquifer with the new water.

        Won’t save us from sea level rise though.
        And the ongoing drought and heat will kill the nearby remnant forests.

        It’s very sad.

      • Burgundy

         /  January 13, 2015

        Where’s Perth’s wealth coming from? This city on the edge of a desert.

        • It’s the business, finance, and political services center for West Australia. The economy is mixed, but primarily service based. There’s some heavy industry, but that’s at the periphery.

      • Burgundy

         /  January 13, 2015

        Sounds like they’re building a nest on the end of a rotting branch.

      • Nathan

         /  January 13, 2015

        Money from mining… Mostly and some agriculture. But Perth is historically the centre as it was the original town. Most of the money is made in regional centres but no one would want to live thee so they all live in Perth.

        • Well, yes, West Australia is mostly mining. But Perth is the services center.

        • climatehawk1

           /  January 14, 2015

          Worth noting for the Yanks among us: Western Australia is about 6 times the size of Texas.

        • DanEJ

           /  January 14, 2015

          Almost Climate Hawk – Texas is about 270,000sq miles, Western Australia is about 975,000sq miles. It’s the biggest state in the world, I have been told, and has about 2.5million people in it.

          Perth is rich due to it being the centre of mining in Australia, and the main pool of labour for the mega mines across the state. They’re at once breath-taking and horrific. There has been a massive boom as we have fed China’s growth for the last decade. At one point it was possible for cleaners to earn AU$100,000 to fly in/fly out to the mines (live in Perth, but spend weeks at the mine – typicallay 2 weeks on, 1 week off – or similar). Those days have gone, but I’m a state governmnet worker and I am very much in the middle of the salary range, and I’m not far off $100,000. When trying to explain the economy here, it’s akin to that of Sweden. High prices (Try US$8-10 for a pint of beer!), high-ish taxes and high salaries.

          But Perth is on borrowed time. My original post was to highlight the inequality and pure dumb luck that the rich can postpone the worst affects of climate change. But it will be overwhelmed like everywhere – in every sense. I studied sustainable development here in Perth, and I spent time trying to work out where would be the best place for me and my family to live to best sit out the collapse. And I came to the conclusion there is no where that won’t be fundementally affected. Everywhere has pros and cons. I’d guess that Perth is a rubbish place to be – the soil is very poor and it’ll be dry and hotter (only last week we has a 44.4C day!), but we have a low population and a very recent history of self sufficiency. So social unrest could be conatined. Maybe the south coast of Western Australia might be better.

          So, my original post wasn’t me being flippant. A ice-free Arctic could easily kick off a wildly bizarre jet stream leading to massive crop failure resulting in extreme food prices and social unrest. that could be 2,5,10 years away? A desalination plant in Perth will not make much difference.

        • It’s not something that happens the moment you have an ice free Arctic. The weather pattern changes as polar amplification advances. So we are in the first stages now. In addition, it’s not just the ice free Arctic that’s a threat to global agriculture — warming related changes to evaporation and precipitation as well as prospective uses of geo-engineering also have their impacts. Lastly, ocean acidification and anoxia combine to harm the global ocean based food source.

          Sea ice loss isn’t a line in the sand. Just another step down the road to worsening impacts. We have a small window. But it’s closing pretty quick. And you’re right — under BAU warming, there’s really no safe haven.

        • DanEJ

           /  January 14, 2015

          It’s part of the whole change and/or collapse of systems, but Arctic sea ice loss probably has one of the most rapid effects on weather (as opposed to climate – which is pretty rapid too!), as the temperature gradients can affect conditions (i.e.jet stream) within months. I realise that I’m talking to a well-respected subscriber to Neven’s excellent blog and therefore something of an expert in this area! So I’m more than happy to be corrected. I know that on-going ice melt is affecting the jet stream, but I supose I’m asking whether I’m right in believing that a high melt year impacts the jet stream virtually immediatly (in Oct/Nov of the same year – e.g. superstorm Sandy)

        • We have a huge energy rebalancing going on now with current polar amplification and sea ice loss. In the period, likely within the next ten years or so, when we begin to see ice free summers, it will start out as a few days to weeks of ice free status. So you’re not really talking about going from ‘normal’ ice coverage to zero. You’re talking about a rapid degradation of the ice that brings on brief periods of zero coverage at first. Then, over the next decade or so you see the loss of summer ice entirely, then the spring and fall ice, finally the winter. During this progression, you have an increasingly intense melt response from the GIS, which has its own weather impacts.

          Under BAU, there’s a kind of ratcheting where each decade is basically worse than the last for global agriculture — all for a variety of reasons.

          Think of it as the progression to 400 PPM. For the sea ice, it’s as if we’re at 390, and 400 is the start of brief ice free episodes during summer. It’s a marker and an ominous one. But a spot on the bad path all the same.

          So it’s not that summer in which there’s no sea ice for 10-20 days, say, when world agriculture just suddenly gets hit hard. It’s getting hit now. Here and there it’s getting hit with increasing frequency. Brazil, California, Pakistan this year. India, Russia another. A creeping crisis that never really goes away but just slowly tightens its grip.

          We’re looking at Jet Stream changes now. Francis is pointing them out now. But agriculture still grinds along with just more bumps in the road. And so it will be in the years leading up to and beyond zero sea ice. A kind of piling up of challenges. And at some point, we’ll look back and see how much and how rapidly things changed. But it will be through a progress of worsening years. We’re in that process now.

          Now as for the speed at which feedbacks pick up pace in the Arctic. That is a matter of rather huge controversy and significance. And though that is related to sea ice to ocean albedo change, the melt and related ocean warming is not the only factor. So of course the nature of how the Arctic amplifies will have a big role in what happens to global ag. But I wouldn’t say that a single year of zero ice sets this train in motion either. It could be well argued that the feedbacks are setting up now and will tend to gradually ramp up as time moves forward.

          The real trouble is the fact that these impacts are additive. And there may very well come a tipping point in the global human system that is ag. But I don’t think it would be useful to set an arbitrary timer to the date of zero ice.

    • T-rev

       /  January 13, 2015

      “I’m not Australian born, and it’s highly frustrating to see the awful politics of both refugess and climate change this country has embraced.”

      I am Australian born, and I can only apologise, my only saving grace is I have never voted for any politician that has even been elected, so I didn’t put them there.. 🙂 That aside, read Professor Donald Horn’s “The Lucky Country ” from 1964 whose pejorative use of the term has been usurped for political purposes…

      “Australia is a lucky country, run by second-rate people who share its luck”

      Sentiment seem familiar ? Nothing much has changed.

      “I think there’s a good chance that the illiterate Federal Government will be removed at the next election next year.”

      Possibly but never let the Australian enthusiasm for letting incompetence continue unchecked allow you some hope 🙂 That aside, as you yourself point about wealth, why would they vote any differently when it delivers such wealth to them personally and that’s what massive personal emissions have done.

      That aside, when you mention “change”, voters will only vote for the ALP instead, who have the same goals on both policies you abhor. Both major parties have a 5% reduction goal by 2020. It;s only a reduction if you don’t count land clearing, which they did not have to under the “out clause” in Kyoto. PM’s Rudd/Gillard both made the Howard era refugee policies more draconian..

      Sweeping mitigation reductions are impossible at a national level in Australia under the current framework, voters will simply not allow it. We have less the 10% voting for the only political party who think emissions should be mitigated aggressively and refugees should be dealt with humanely.

      We will never see at a national or international level any effective movement to curb CO2e emissions until we see widespread significant minority personal reductions morph into a strident political force and by then it will be too late eg completely off carbon energy by 2034 for a slim chance of staying under 2C. Even those who do accept the need for mitigation seem to be stuck at couchtavism and denial that their personal emissions are part of the problem

      Forcings from prior emissions will ensure “catastrophe”. Aside from my partner and I, I know of no one, who by their actions, shows they accept the need for significant CO2e emissions reductions.

      • Fossil Fuel industry provides much of the inertia against positive change at the speed we need. The test case is that they start to lose political power as their consumer base erodes and they require higher levels of funding to access the unconventional fuels.

        Humanity may turn on the success or failure of renewables. Not just due to the fact that renewables prevent carbon emissions. But also due to the fact that renewables evaporate the cause of the horrible politics.

      • Phil S

         /  January 13, 2015

        I’ll second your comments T-rev, but I feel no need to apologize for other peoples ignorance. I’m continually astounded at the complacency of people who present the image of being Green and understanding CC.

        Re drilling for water in Brazil, I’ve been sharing the news around over the last few months (big thanks to Andy for all the updates). I friend came back to me recently who met a Brazilian who was amazed anyone knew about the desperate situation. Evidently everyone who can is drilling and pumping

        • I think São Paulo could well be an example of overpopulation, over consumption, drastically inefficient use of resources, and rapidly ramping impacts due to both deforestation and climate change.

        • In addition to irresponsible inequality and a corrupt and mostly impotent government.

    • Andy in San Diego

       /  January 13, 2015

      Desalination is often referred to as a simple solution (often by those that want business as usual, change nothing).

      We don’t hear in the same “simple fix, just drop desalination plants from helicopters” statements the other things that go along with it. Desalination is not cheap, the water is expensive (who affords that? It is wealthy water). It needs power, lots of it. Power plants are not located within a neighborhood normally. Therefore once must string power lines, or big pipes to transport water or electricity. Power plants just add to the mess we’re making.

      Once can’t drop these from helicopters, they take years to plan, approve, build. Australia being a wealthy country, as you mentioned can afford to put these in place. Plenty of countries will find it cheaper (or have no option) to allow people to migrate.

      A desalination plant is being built about 25 miles from me, it’s taken years and years. Meetings, planning meetings, studies etc… Now there is a giant pipe being stuck under a road heading inland.

      Inland = uphill. That water just got more expensive as pumping is not cheap on that scale.

      I agree 100% with your thoughts, it a solution for the wealthy.

      • In a high efficiency culture where use of water per capita is low, then desalination is a more practical adaptation. But we are looking at a vegan based culture who uses about 70 percent less energy per capita coming from 100% renewable sources (low water).

        My primary concern is that desalination will be used by the wealthy to continue current fossil fuel burning and dangerous consumption while continuing to externalizer the damage. I’m somewhat mollified by the fact that desalination in California is happening in a state that is moving in the right direction when it comes to efficiency and renewables.

        But this tech can certainly be used as a crutch by wealthy seeking to squeeze a few more years out of an unsustainable lifestyle — especially if the desalination is hooked up to fossil fuels. In which case, it’s double trouble.

        But I wouldn’t blanket demonize desalination. Even if we have a full and very rapid response to climate change, we’re going to need it in certain regions. And we are probably going to need to sea base it as well as fix society’s water consumption levels so that the water produced can be more broadly useful. At least California is taking the problem of reducing consumption very seriously. I can’t speak for Australia.

        So, for me, the good-bad line again hinges on policy. We really, really need effective and responsible government in the face of these troubles. Which is why pressure from the grass roots as well as responsible people getting involved is so important.

        In any case, once again, if you care about the poor, eating less meat really, really helps.

      • RWood

         /  January 13, 2015

        I hope those plants have more than desalinization capacity:

      • Phil S

         /  January 13, 2015

        Desal plants also have a back end, too often ignored in discussion about benefits and drawbacks.

        The process of desalination is not per se environmentally friendly and seawater desalination plants also contribute to the wastewater discharges that affect coastal water quality. This is mostly due to the highly saline brine that is emitted into the sea, which may be increased in temperature, contain residual chemicals from the pretreatment process, heavy metals from corrosion or intermittently used cleaning agents. The effluent from desalination plants is a multi-component waste, with multiple effects on water, sediment and marine organisms. It therefore affects the quality of the resource it depends on.

        • There are local negative impacts both from the intake pipe and the outlet. These are externalities that can be reduced in design.

          Not a silver bullet solution by any stretch. But the threat posed by desalination is orders of magnitude lower than the threat posed by continued fossil fuel use.

  4. wili

     /  January 13, 2015

    Anyone who want to keep up with this continually developing catastrophe can follow this thread (started by yours truly). It usually has daily updates with local stories translated from Portuguese, with plenty of graphs, maps and pictures, mostly brought to you by one “vox_mundi”:

  5. Jay M

     /  January 13, 2015

    bet there is a lot of drilling and pumps being imported

    • Probably. I wonder what kind of ground water reserve is available in this region.

      • The ground reserves are actually good, if one can drill an artesian well, as São Paulo is in the area of the Aquifer Guarani that has potable water. There are HUGE problems with water contamination, though, specially from gasoline leaks from waystations and agrotoxic and heavy metal leaks from former industrial sites. I´d say that anyone drilling in the Eastern part of town (former industrial sites) is playing russian roulette if they don´t test the well water´s before using it. And illegal drilling is more common than planned, approved and tested wells, specially because licencing a well can take up to 2 years, so plenty of badly drilled and untested wells around the city.

        There are other ways of getting water, though. Where I live (in Mairiporã/SP, still inside São Paulo Megalopolis), we have no water service. I´ve installed a cistern to catch rain water. Prices (and having to move fast because of health problems, to a house that needed a total renovation so that it could at least have a roof again), made me and my husband install only a 10.000L cistern, with plans to enlarge the system later. We are using a system of filters to turn the rain water in potable water (and our water is currently far better than Sabesp´s).

        Even with the drought, we only had to fill the cistern with bought water once: in April, when we moved (and after the wet season). Right now the cistern if filled to the brink: water is raining around here, it only isn´t raining enough for all our population. And the little water eye that we have in our farm, which is the source of a small river that goes to the Cantareira reservatory hasn´t gone dry in all this drought, though it dwindled. But it IS forested all around, as it should be, and we´ve been planting new native trees since we bought the land (153 so far).

        In the bigger view, though our recently reelected governor (without my vote) has decided that he´d rather invest in a 2 Billion project to divest Paraiba do Sul´s water from Rio (and Rio is ALSO in a drought area, things just aren´t as bad there) than spend 200 Million in reforestation. The first project is going to be ready and working (if all goes according to plan, which around here, it never does) in 2019, and it will, if everything works well, enhance water capture by 15%. The reforestation project, in 2019, would have enhanced water capture by 50%, and the water quality would also benefit. But there´s virtually no opportunity for stealing money in the reforestation project, so.. >_<

        In even a bigger view, our recently reelected president (also without my vote) has decided to place in our Science chair one rotten jaboticaba, Aldo Rebelo. The guy is a communist that believes that enviromentalists are hidden capitalist guerrilla men, and so, he aids big-money coronels in their harsh fight against those "enemies of the state". That goes around well with Dilma´s hatred of the environment in general. Deforestation of the Amazon is scaling up, drying the flying rivers, but Aldo Rebelo already had an altercation with Antonio Nobre (our greatest climatologist) and dismissed him as "just another gringo-paid idiot". Nowhere to run or hide.

        But even though São Paulo´s situation is dire, I need to mention that this is NOT the worst drought situation around here in Brasil. No one is dying of thirsty in São Paulo yet, and taps still have water. In the Northeast, things are far worst (even though, or maybe because, drought is common around there, and so it´s a poorer region).

        São Francisco´s headwater has dried. And São Francisco´s importance for Brasil… Imagine the Mississippi, if you are an American. It´s of as much cultural importance here as the Mississippi is for you. But unlike the Mississippi, São Francisco´s is a bit like the Nile: it crosses a desertic area and it´s the only source of water and fertility around it. And it´s headwater dried, because of the drought and mostly because of deforestation around it, criminal, as the headwaters ARE in a National Park, but those poor big money rural coronels so beloved to our communists here don´t care. As São Francisco has a lot of affluents, the rivers isn´t completly dry, but it can be crossed by foot in it´s middle right now (in a place where normally the river would be more than 40m deep), and in Sobradinho´s reservoir, a phantom city that was once covered by waters is dry again.

  6. Ouse M.D.

     /  January 13, 2015

    What kind of winter polar vortex is this?

    • 10 mb level. Anomalous atmospheric heightening and severe torquing. We have warm air invading the upper levels from the Med and Eastern Europe fed by the extraordinary high and conjoined storm track over the Atlantic.

      Something we don’t seem to have a name for yet…

      • Robert In New Orleans

         /  January 13, 2015

        It is the Princess Leia Vortex

        Sorry Robert, but you left yourself open for this one 🙂

        • In general, this arrangement is due to a combination of the polar circulation shift toward Greenland and related heightening of the atmosphere over the Atlantic and Siberia.

          If we want to use a Star Wars reference, I’d call it a Death Star arrangement for the North Atlantic storm track. What’s going on over Russia and Siberia is another piece of the puzzle — primarily driven by warm air rising over Europe and cold air in Siberia leaping through a narrow corridor across the pole.

          This all feeds the Greenland centered circulation.

  7. Ouse M.D.

     /  January 13, 2015

    In other news:
    the Malaysian airplane semms to have broken into two whilst still in the air.
    A flight expert (ex-pilot himself) in Hungary, doubted that airplane designs from the ’70s would be capable of withstanding the turbulent winds caused by accelerating global warming.
    In other words: our technology is already obsolete for this climate and still we’re pushing it and hoping that it’s just gonna be as 10 years ago or a year ago or yesterday.

    • So wind stress tore it apart in mid air?

    • Do you have a link for this? I’d like to take a look.

      • Ouse M.D.

         /  January 13, 2015

        Unfortunately,it’s in Hungarian… I don´t think that helps You out, Robert.
        But here it is:

        The expert-György Feledi (by the way a gay- activist pilot)- states simply that the main strategy to get through supercells around the equator to simply fly through them- as a cruise liner facing the big waves head- on- and this maneuvre in high winds can knock front sensors out.
        Two facts poitning to the theory, that it broke up already in mid- air:
        -passengers found naked- only high winds can rip clothes totally off
        -a section of the plane still hasn´t been found

        • Thanks for this Ouse. I might be able to get a translation.

          That region where the plane was flying is a section of the global atmosphere that is heightening to an extraordinary degree. It sits over an ocean region that is the hottest on Earth. So we would expect much higher stress to airframes as the storms continue to heighten.

          That flight strategy probably has something to do with fuel management combined with air traffic control concerns. One doesn’t have to think too hard to see a future in which the equatorial region is a selective no fly zone.

          Thanks again, will read more on this.

        • climatehawk1

           /  January 13, 2015

          I did see an aside in one of the press stories on this crash that airplane crashes globally have been declining over time and were at a very low level in 2014. Just FYI. To modify the adage, “Your mileage may REALLY vary,” unfortunately.

      • Bernard

         /  January 14, 2015


        there are several large forums for commercial airline pilots. They’ve been discussing this since the days immediately after the incident:

        Sorry for not linking to individual posts, currently on mobile.

    • OK, a very interesting set of powerful forces seem to be at work here.

      • Ouse M.D.

         /  January 13, 2015

        Yep, abrupt climate change is a different kinda animal.
        50 million years or so time travel in just a couple of decades. Geology playing out in real- time.
        Our technology is already obsolete….

        • Oh, you can bet they’ll be looking to increase airframe strength and/or fly around the storms. But nature and tech are certainly locked in a race at this time. Best thing to do is to stop feeding nature the firewater.

  8. M E Cheshier

     /  January 13, 2015

    Fabulous post!! Thanks so much for the heads up!

  9. Andy in San Diego

     /  January 13, 2015

    At the current rate, they are dry by April.

    Sao Paolo will then move on an draw from Paraíba do Sul river, which also feeds Rio State (they are already moving towards that). Rio is fighting back, as the Paraíba do Sul river feeds and area in higher drought than Sao Paolo State.

    Desperation may cause that to occur outside the courts, quickly. Pull the water today, let it sit in court as we have a supply in the interim.

    Otherwise, refugees (marginal) may move from Sao Paolo to Rio, those that don’t have significant presence (land, business etc..).

    This will become an issue beyond a few headlines fairly soon. That last 6.4% is not all usable.

    • Absolutely, Andy. And spot on research on this.

      What amazes me is the total lack of response to husband current sources, reduce massive leakages in the system, mandate consumption reductions across all of São Paulo, and penalize excessive consumption. It’s the exact model of a denial response — pretend this is not an ongoing and worsening problem that represents a new reality and hope and pray for a change in the dice loaded against you weather.

      • wili

         /  January 13, 2015

        “It’s the exact model of a denial response” Right. And it is also more evidence that denial and other disfunctions do not disappear by themselves in the midst of even an existential and immediate threat to an entire mega-city.

        “hope and pray” reminds me of what I saw from a lot of Oklahoman’s during their mega-drought and heatwaves a couple years back. But they still support some of the most virulently denialist congressmen in the union.

        • Disaster is no cure for denial. The only way to solve denial is for the rest of us to keep fighting the good fight.

  10. And, more to that we celebrate new year with 400 ppm CO2, great!

    2015 Begins With CO2 Above 400 PPM Mark

    Tans initially expected February to be the first month of the year above 400 ppm, but predicting that threshold is tricky because CO2 concentrations depend both on emissions and natural ecosystem processes, which can be influenced by climate phenomena like the El Nino Southern Oscillation cycle, he said.

    The 400 ppm mark, regardless of when it occurs, is a symptom of the larger story of humans altering Earth’s climate.

    “Because of the likely major negative ramifications of CO2-induced warming on the climate, it serves as an important reminder: if we want to bequeath a liveable climate to future generations, we need to act now and not delay,” O’Dell said in an email.


  11. Off-Season Drought Makes 93 Brazilian Cities Cut Off Water

    “nety-three cities are now officially rationing water – the same amount as last year. But now the measure affects not only the small towns, but also midsize cities, including those outside of the semiarid region.

    In total, 3.9 million people are affected.

    In São Paulo, now going through its worst drought in 84 years, rationing has not been declared, but water pressure has been reduced at night.”

  12. wili

     /  January 13, 2015

    A kind of year in review and overview of our current situation; a variety of voices and facts compiled by Albert Bates:

    • Griffin

       /  January 13, 2015

      Thanks for sharing this wili, that was really good to watch.

      • wili

         /  January 14, 2015

        Welcome, Griffin. There are a few points that are a bit off, though, as far as I can tell. I don’t think Shahkova ever said that a 50 gigaton methane emission already happened; only that it could, in here judgment, happen at any time. And of course atmospheric measures have not detected anything like that…yet…

        the Goreau claim that current levels of atmospheric CO2 corresponds to an equilibrium climate 17 degrees C hotter than the current one (at about minute 19) is way outside of anything I’ve heard anywhere else. I would like to see if this is published somewhere.

        He seems to be talking about the Pliocene when CO2 levels were indeed about 400 pp, like today, but temps then were only 2-3 C higher than pre-industrial global temps. Am I missing something?

        Tom Newmark’s claims that biochar lasts millions of years seems to be off by three to six orders of magnitude.

        Otherwise it seems to be pretty good. Glad you got something out of it.

        • A bit wacky with some of the figures and info. For example, the water bubbling with methane is an Arctic lake not ESAS. Shakhova estimates current ESAS emissions at 17 MT per year. A big deal. They would have been more correct to say that Shakhova estimates 50 GT potential release.

          The light flash is from a Urals ground burst. ID uncertain, but many potential sources.

          In no vague way does 400 ppm equal 17 C warming — even in the most radically sensitive Earth Systems estimates….

  13. Phil

     /  January 13, 2015

    The JISAO December 2014 PDO value was 2.51, up from 1.72 in November 2014.

  14. Javier Gonzalez

     /  January 13, 2015

    I have been following the issue and Sao Paulo running out of water will be the news of 2015. My concern now, is I read somewhere the whole south Brazil region is running at 19% reservoir capacity, about 60 million people. At current below average precipitation rates we can be moving from an issue affecting about 6 million people (Cantareira) to about 60 million.

    I haven’t been able to find good information on the South Brazil and other reservoirs. If anybody here knows where to find it please let me know.

    Besides the humanitarian crisis. This is a full-blown economic Depression. Who from Sao Paulo will pay mortgages or other types of loans? Banks will go under; banking crises, GDP contraction of about 30%, devaluation of the real, bond prices down; coffee, sugar, orange, soy, corn prices through the roof. The consequences are being completely ignored.

    I fully expect that in the next solar maximum (2022-2024), the same thing could be happening to a few dozen countries. If it were to materialize for the Southwest US, all national US banks would go bankrupt and it will be worse than 2008 crises. So even living in Scandinavia or Northern Canada will not help much.

  1. Sao Paulo’s Reservoirs are Drying Out When they Should Be Filling Up | GarryRogers Nature Conservation
  2. Sao Paulo’s Reservoirs are Drying Out When they Should Be Filling Up | GarryRogers Nature Conservation

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