Twenty Million People Are Going To Be Thirsty

If it doesn’t rain in Sao Paulo, Brazil in the next 45 days, the system that provides half the city’s drinking water will run dry.
Sao Paulo has a population of about twenty million people, which makes it one of the biggest cities in the world. But unless it rains pretty damn soon, it’s going to get ugly; the city’s undergoing the most severe drought in five decades. There’s not enough water for irrigating many crucial crops, or to keep animal fodder growing, which means livestock is now starving.

Thousands of subsistence farmers have seen their livelihoods wither away in recent months as animal carcasses lie abandoned in some areas that have seen almost no rain in two years.

“We are experiencing the worst drought in 50 years, with consequences that could be compared to a violent earthquake,” Eduardo Salles, agriculture secretary in the northeastern state of Bahia, said in an emailed statement.


On a climate-changed planet, there’ll be as much or more water in circulation — but the regularity and consistency of its distribution will be a thing of the past. Devastating rains here, devastating droughts there. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to transport the huge quantities involved from, say, Pakistan (floods) to Brazil (drought), and the likely upshot is (sigh) yet another urgent humanitarian crisis.

But as the drought has dragged on, the executive secretary of non-profit water association Consorcio PCJ told Bloomberg News on Tuesday that Sao Paulo’s largest water system — the Cantareira — is currently at less than a quarter of capacity. Though the Cantareira is supposed to supply water to approximately 10 million people in Sao Paulo, which has a population of 20 million, its levels are the lowest its been in decades, according to a report in the Global Post.

If it doesn’t rain before late March, all of the system’s water will be dried up. But if it doesn’t rain before Feb. 15, Sao Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin said the city will have to begin rationing its supplies — something that hasn’t happened since 2003. January was the hottest month on record in the city, Reuters reported, and meteorologists expect little rain in the next week.

A city of 20,000,000 can reliably be expected to have some music of every imaginable kind. For example:

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