Water is the elixir of life. We simply can’t live without it, and not in that I can’t live without my smartphone kind of way, either. Humans physically cannot exist without water, but that’s exactly what residents of Sao Paulo, Brazil might have to do later in the year. That’s because officials at the city’s largest water and sewage utility have warned that low reservoir levels may cause a severe water scarcity as the region grows drier with a change of weather.
The dry “season” might even be lasting a bit longer, with some sources estimating that the drought currently plaguing Sao Paulo is the worst in nearly half a century.
As of this week, Sao Paulo’s largest water source, the Cantareira reservoir, was only at 12.7% of its capacity, according to Reuters. That’s especially troubling considering that the World Cup of soccer’s opening match is slated to be held in the city in the middle of June. And Sao Paulo could use the tourism boost the match could generate, especially given its current suffering economy, which is projected to grow a paltry 2% this year.
But for Sao Paulo residents living out their daily lives, water concerns are effectively still intangible inconveniences at this point. What’s afflicting the city’s denizens is a much more frustrating problem in the present tense — the problem of poor public transportation. As the University of Southern California’s Neon Tommy news site reports, public trains are constantly delayed, and the platforms where residents are made to wait aren’t kept up by transit employees.
While those relatively minor (though still unsightly) disruptions can be overlooked as typical metropolis dealings, Sao Paulo citizens fear for their lives actually climbing aboard the trains. Hazardous overcrowding has become a potentially life-threatening issue, with train doors being stuck open while the vehicles are actually in motion. To make matters worse, women have decried sexual abuse aboard the perilous stuffed trains and residents across the city have complained of rising crime rates.
So, where does Sao Paulo begin? For starters, water conservation is a must, says the utility company. Toilets account for over a quarter of the average household’s entire water usage, so rationing flushes may be in order, as may shorter shower times. But all that is still quite a bit in the future — at least for now.
“If the rains do not return to appropriate levels and reservoir levels are not restored, we may be forced to take more drastic measures, such as water rationing,” the company, Cia de Saneamento Básico do Estado de São Paulo SA, said in an official statement earlier this week.
As for the overcrowded trains? That’s just something that simple water rationing won’t be able to solve. But for Sao Paulo, it might be wise to handle one problem at a time.