São Paulo is Brazil’s largest and wealthiest city, a bustling concrete jungle of 11 million people. Now imagine the city going for days without water for drinking, bathing, or cleaning—it’s a dystopian scenario not far from São Paulo’s reality thanks to a water crisis made worse by drought.
As the New York Times reports, taps are already running dry for days at a time, and officials are mulling a ration that turns water on only two day per week. A leaked conversation had one senior official from São Paulo’s water utility saying the water situation could become so bad residents might have to be warned to flee. The Times reports on what the situation is already like:
"Imagine going three days without any water and trying to run a business in a basic sanitary way," said Maria da Fátima Ribeiro, 51, who owns a bar in Parque Alexandra, a gritty neighborhood on the edge of São Paulo’s metropolitan area. "This is Brazil, where human beings are treated worse than dogs by our own politicians."
Some residents have begun drilling their own wells around homes and apartment buildings, or hoarding water in buckets to wash clothes or flush toilets. Public schools are prohibiting students from using water to brush their teeth, and changing their lunch menus to serve sandwiches instead of meals on plates that need to be washed.
The terrible irony is that Brazil is actually rich in freshwater, with the Amazon and other rivers adding up to one-eight of the world’s freshwater. But nearby pollution, deforestation, and a recent drought are putting strain on São Paulo’s notoriously leaky municipal water system. Now the consequences are piling up, and the megacity is running out of water. [New York Times]