Drop by drop: Living through the São Paulo water crisis

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Every morning, by 9am, I am out of water for the rest of the day.

I've changed my breakfast routine. These days, I eat water-free food like bread with butter or milk with chocolate. Unfortunately, I can’t take a good shower, so I wait all day until the water turns on and quickly scrub as hard as I can for five minutes. The act of bathing is a luxury. Why can't I have water, you may ask? Brazil is in the grip of the worst drought in 40 years.


I don’t have any water supply from 9am to 3pm. I don´t have access to this vital resource between five and six hours each day. I can't cook, to clean my house or even drink from the tap. I have some water stored to use the toilet, but I can’t flush it without draining this reserve. Over the last few months, the price of bottled water shot up from from 2,50 reais (88 cents) to 3,50 ($1.08).

According to Sabesp, the Brazilian water company, residents of São Paulo — more than 10 million people — should expect five days a week of restrictions and only two days of full service. There was no date given for our access to be restored. If the situation gets worse, people from São Paulo will need to move to other parts of the nation with adequate water. I don’t have a wife or kids yet, but this is difficult for everyone.


We are all worried we will become refugees.

Since October of 2014, I’ve suffered from water rationing. I know friends and other colleagues who’ve had these problems since September 2014. This shortage was not an accident, nor an act of God: this is a result of twenty years of government neglecting the ecological management of the water supply. Instead of investing in infrastructure and rain water collection, Sabesp waits for a crisis to occur before taking action.  “We will not lose our water," said the governor Geraldo Alckmin in 2014´s reelection campaign.

And yet, here we are.

In São Paulo, Sabesp controls the water reserves and all the dams. The dry weather is affecting our agrobusiness, the main way Brazil makes money - and the press estimates we may have lost more than one billion reais from our economy since the drought began.  And the pressure is mounting: now industries and the residents in São Paulo are demanding answers. But governor Geraldo Alckmin is not taking responsibility for the drought. President Dilma Rousseff is not helping in all this crisis.


Alckmin didn’t act like a leader with a plan- there was no transparency in his actions and he failed to prepare Sabesp for the effects of  global warming. Now we are all suffering.

To end the water rations, the way water is taken from dams to cities needs to be reconstructed, reorganized and redistributed. In the northeast, citizens learned to cope with the droughts by capturing rainwater in domestic cisterns - why can't we do the same? What is stopping us from being proactive with this problem?


Closer examination reveals the problem is less about the drought and more about the billionaire corruption inside Sabesp. Instead of investing in infrastructure to prevent the drought, they cut investment to hoard money. The national police and the authorities need to investigate seriously the Sabesp management and the responsibility of Alckmin in the current situation of São Paulo.

Our waterless future in some regions of São Paulo is impacting the Brazilian economy and the GDP.


And it could be worse - if the water crisis continues, entire country is in peril.

I would suggest we protest, but most of us cannot march and shout - our throats are too dry, and we are too thirsty.


Journalist, writer, communicator. I'm the editor of the website Geração Gamer, about videogames in Brazil, and freelancer reporter of Diário do Centro do Mundo, DCM.

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