Tag Archives: crisis

Water crisis squeezes Sao Paulo state



Itu, Brazil – The state of Sao Paulo is on the cusp of an unprecedented water crisis stemming in part from one of the worst droughts in decades, leaving millions scrambling to find clean water sources.

On Friday, the city of Sao Paulo recorded its hottest temperature in more than 71 years, and 70 cities in the state are facing extreme drought, with 30 cities already on some sort of water rationing.

The problem stems from a lack of water at the Cantareira, a complex of reservoirs and small dams built in the 1970’s that are the primary source of water for more than 10 million people in the state.

The water levels at the Cantareira are now below four percent, the lowest in recorded history, and estimates on when it could totally dry range from November to March of next year.

A visit to the town of Nazare Paulista revealed how bad things are, with the water lines under bridges visible, and abandoned cars appearing from the mud of what was once underwater.

In May, just a few weeks before the World Cup, and with the water levels nearing 10 percent, officials released what they called an emergency “dead volume” reserve of water into the Cantareira to boost volumes back up to above 20 percent. But with almost no rain, it went down to record lows.

Officials are now debating if they want to release a second round of reserve water, as there are disagreements over whether it is healthy for drinking.

Re-using sewage water

The state of Sao Paulo is larger than the UK, has a population of 44 million equal to Kenya, and a local economy of nearly $700bn equal to the Netherlands.

Residents of Itu, an old and historic municipality in Sao Paulo state, told Al Jazeera they had no other choice than to re-use sewage water to flush their toilets.

On Friday, dozens of people appeared at a local ravine overgrown with shrubs, all desperate to get any water they could from an obscure water pipe, the only source in their neighbourhood.

With empty buckets and plastic soda bottles in hand, they waited patiently in line, some for more than an hour.

This is where Rosa da Silva waited to get water, now a precious commodity in many neighbourhoods in this working class town of 154,000 people outside Sao Paulo.

Da Silva, who lives with her three children and two adult relatives, has been without water in her home for 12 days.

“I have to get water here to cook and clean because we haven’t had one drop of water in our house (in the past 12 days),” she said.

Another Itu resident, 84-year-old Antonio Barbosa, shuffled up to the line holding a plastic bottle.

“It’s been 10 days without water in my house, so I come here to get a little so I can take a shower and cool down so I can sleep,” he said.

Nobody is quite sure where the water from the pipe comes from or if it is clean. Some people say they have become sick from it, others say they have not.

What most here do agree on is that it is humiliating to have to do this and it’s out of necessity not desire.

‘Politics of water’

In the middle of nationwide elections the past month, the issue of water shortages in Sao Paulo has been avoided by most politicians.

The opposition Social Democracy Party (PSDB) has governed the state for the past 13 years and their candidate for president, Aecio Neves, is in one of the tightest races in history for president against incumbent Dilma Rousseff.

Governor Geraldo Alckmin, a Neves ally from the PSDB, has so far avoided saying there is a water crisis and instead says all is being done to make sure widespread water rationing is not needed.

But in the last presidential debate, Rousseff said Neves’ party was leaving Sao Paulo “without water,” a direct reference to the shortages.

Neves reminded Rousseff that Alckmin was overwhelmingly re-elected earlier this month, soundly defeating the candidate from Rousseff’s Workers Party.

But after the election, the issue of water shortages and mandatory rationing might become more pressing and unavoidable.

While the candidates for president debated on national TV, back in Itu few had time to watch.

The line of people showing up with empty bottles and buckets at the ravine continued to grow.

“I don’t care what the politicians say,” a middle aged woman without water for 10 days said as she pushed a wheelbarrow full of coke bottles she just filled with water.”Here it’s only about survival,” she concluded, “and for that we can only help ourselves.”

“Here it’s only about survival,” she concluded, “and for that we can only help ourselves.”

Invest in Filtercon. Get PURE WATER every day.

Original Link: SaoPauloArticle


Across California, people of faith are lifting their voices to support AB 685 (Eng), the Human Right to Water Act, which is under consideration this week by Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, and her colleagues in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Water is the foundation of life. From birth to death, each and every day, our lives depend on clean water. Many different faiths recognize this gift of water through sacred rites and rituals.

Unfortunately, California’s waters are increasingly stressed from climate change, overuse and contamination. While many of us take our water for granted, it is heartbreaking to see how many families, communities and schools across California can no longer drink their toxic tap water. These families have had no choice but to buy expensive bottled water for everyday use – this on top of paying for local water supply. A United Nations report estimated that in some cases, California families are burdened with paying up to 20 percent of their monthly income for water and sanitation. Schools are forced to spend money they could spend in the classroom on bottled water for students.

For years, impoverished communities in California have struggled to bring these problems to light. Recent research by UC Davis on the impact of nitrates from fertilizer, pesticides and diaries confirms what had been feared – hundreds of thousands of people in California are drinking water that is unsafe, risking blue baby syndrome, maternal reproductive complications and other diseases.

Even the United Nations is concerned. Last year, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water came on mission to the United States, including a trip to investigate California’s lack of access to safe drinking water for disadvantaged communities. Last week, the Special Rapporteur urged California’s legislators to pass AB 685, the Human Right to Water Act, as a foundational step to address our water policy challenges.

The U.N.’s voice joins a growing and diverse chorus of supporters, including the California Catholic Conference, whose recent letter of support advocates for the necessity “to cultivate a public conscience that considers food and access to water as universal rights of all human beings, without distinction or discrimination.”

The Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of California is pleased to see the growing moral witness with regard to the human right to water. When impoverished communities lack access to safe water, at the same time as our state invests billions in water infrastructure, it is both a water crisis and a moral crisis. This crisis can and must be addressed. As members of the Safe Water Alliance, a collaboration of environmental, faith, health, community, human rights and environmental justice organizations, we believe that our current water policies, which have left behind so many, have proved to be inadequate to the task.

AB 685 will put the human right to water in the California Water Code. As a complement to environmental law, AB 685 will set a priority and empower state agencies, as our experts, to work toward solutions that are just for all our families. This bill is a modest step, providing a policy framework to guide state authorities as they do their work of adopting policies, regulations and funding criteria. It moves California toward the day when we will all have access to safe, affordable water for drinking, cooking and sanitation.
By Arvid Straube, Susan Weaver & Lindi Ramsden

12:01 a.m., Aug. 16, 2012
Updated 3:41 p.m. , Aug. 15, 2012