SAO PAULO Gears Up for Water Rationing : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

May 31, 2000 - 01:53 PM

Brazil's Biggest Metropolis Gears Up for Water Rationing By Stan Lehman Associated Press Writer The Associated Press

SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) - Millions of residents of South America's biggest and wealthiest city raced Wednesday to fill pots, pans, cisterns and even swimming pools with water in preparation for five months of water rationing. Starting Thursday, about 3 million people - nearly one-third of the city's population - will be required to follow what authorities call the two-and-one plan: two days with water, one day without.

The rationing will affect more than 500 districts of northern Sao Paulo, where rich and poor alike depend on the 250-square-mile Guarapiranga Reservoir for their water.

While many residents seemed unconcerned Wednesday, many were stocking up on water ahead of the first dry day.

"I just filled my pool and replenished the water tanks," said Teresa Nicoretto, a 35-year-old housewife in the fashionable Morumbi neighborhood. "I think I'll be fine as long as the rationing system works the way they say it will."

Despite its economic clout, Sao Paulo has never learned to manage water.

In the Southern Hemisphere summer between December and March, heavy rains often cause rivers to overflow, and floods bring the city to a standstill. Now, after seven months of sparse rains, reservoirs are drying up.

The Sao Paulo state water and sewage utility, known as Sabesp, said rainfall between October and April was almost 30 percent below average. As a result, the Guarapiranga Reservoir has fallen to 17.7 billion gallons, or 42 percent of capacity.

Worsening matters are some 300,000 squatters who in recent years have illegally occupied land near the reservoir. The squatters have destroyed surrounding vegetation, drying up a network of underground springs that helped replenish Guarapiranga.

"The haphazard occupation of the area has waterproofed the ground, making it impossible for rainwater to penetrate the soil and feed these springs," said Professor Antonio Fernando Monteiro, head of the Ecology Department of the Sao Paulo State University.

The dry spell has also affected the other five reservoirs that supply the 7 million residents of greater Sao Paulo. But Sabesp said those reservoirs were at normal capacity for this time of the year, and that rationing in other areas was not being considered.

-- Martin Thompson (, May 31, 2000

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