Devastating Drought Continues In Brazil and Beyond
By admin October 22, 2014



After nine months of unprecedented drought, 95% of the water has gone. Supplies are usually abundant. Brazil has 12% of the world’s freshwater and less than 3% of the world population. The drought, affecting Brazil’s southeast and central regions, has prompted rationing in 19 cities, undermined hydropower generation, pushed up greenhouse gas emissions and led to squabbles between states vying for dwindling water resources. With big rivers like the Amazon and Paraná, the country generally meets 80% of energy needs with hydropower. Twenty-nine other Brazilian cities have been affected by the drought. Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais are locked in an increasingly hostile battle over water resources, since Sao Paulo – the economic power engine of Brazil – is trying to draw water from a river system that also serves these other two states.

After the driest six months since records began 84 years ago, the volume of the Cantareira system has fallen to 10.7% of its capacity, raising alarms for the nearby urban population of 20 million people and the most important economic hub on the continent. The reservoir provides water to some 6 million residents, and the region got only a third of the usual rain during Brazil’s wet season from December to February. Government officials say that at current levels of depletion, the Cantareira system would empty in less than 100 days. The top two of the five reservoirs have been drawn down and now “dead water” – which is normally left untouched as a minimum level – is being pumped out of the third. This year, the rain fronts that are normally carried south from the humid Amazon have largely failed to materialize and temperatures have been higher than usual, prompting the authorities to scrabble to tap new sources and reduce demand.

So far the crisis in Sao Paulo city has been managed by a policy of cutting water pressure at night and giving incentives to people who cut back on use. That has meant financial incentives to encourage residents and businesses to reduce consumption, the reduction of water pressure by 75% at night (which in effect means a cut for those – often the poor – living in high areas) and tapping alternative supplies. In neighboring cities, like Gaurulhos, more draconian measures are in place with some neighborhoods only able to get water one day in three. The National Water Agency, or ANA, said last week that Sabesp, the largest water company in Latin America, won’t be allowed to use the last of the water unless the state-run utility can prove it has a plan to manage reservoir supplies better. The company will need to take compensatory measures such as economic stimulus to reduce water consumption. “Sabesp sells water, and there is not much water to sell anymore,” said Alexandre Montes, an analyst at Lopes Filho Investment Consulting.

The drought has far reaching effects, and the price of Arabica coffee, of which Brazil is the world’s top supplier, soared to a two-year high last week as meteorologists predicted low prospects for rainfall in Brazil’s coffee-producing regions for the rest of October and November. Sugar industry experts say the toll on Brazilian sugar could lead to the first global sugar production deficit in years. Brazil’s sugar cane harvest could fall by around 10 percent in the year beginning April 1. Brazilian cane sugar industry group Unica also reported production fell by 29 percent in the second half of September in Brazil’s Center-South region, which produces about 90 percent of the country’s output. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s bureau in Brasilia also predicted Brazil would export 24 million tons of sugar from May 2014 to April 2015, a six-year low.

A critical variable is El Niño, the periodic warming of the Pacific Ocean that impacts weather globally and, in Central America’s case, dries out areas along the Pacific Coast. A big question is how global warming might impact droughts. An article published in Nature Climate Change concluded that “increased heating from global warming may not cause droughts but it is expected that when droughts occur they are apt to set in quicker and be more intense.” “There is still a lot of background variability in the climate system that is masking the global warming signal,” says Ben Cook, a NASA climate scientist and lead author of a recent paper that concluded Western North America, Central America and the Amazon will see “robust” drying this century. “So we can say that there is some evidence that warming is making droughts worse in these areas, but there is still a lot of uncertainty.”


More can be found on:

Thanks for sharing !

Comments are disabled.