By Lisa Flueckiger, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The water and electricity crisis in the Southeast of Brazil continues as the Santa Branca reservoir in the interior of São Paulo state has reached water levels below the need for the generation of electricity. It is the second of the four reservoirs that feed Rio de Janeiro state to stop operations, after Paraibuna had already reported the lack of water last Wednesday (January 21st).
The Santa Branca reservoir normally supplies water for fifteen million people in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Minas Gerais. It is fed by the Paraibuna reservoir, the biggest of the Paraíba river reservoirs.
Santa Branca also has a hydroelectric plant operated by Light with a capacity of 56 megawatt, but its operation had to be suspended on Sunday (January 25th), as the volume of the reservoir reached 131 million cubic meters, a level below the reach of the dam’s turbines.
The National Operator of the Electric System, ONS, had reported that within a week the next reservoir in Jaguari will also reach the dead level. Its volume was down to 1.72 percent this Monday (January 26th). However, according to ONS the energy production in those reservoirs is too small to affect the system.
In the city of Rio de Janeiro the lack of water becomes already visible as the water level of the Lagoa (Lagoon) has dramatically fallen. The water has retreated on the height of the Piraquê Club and a sandbank has appeared. Also the channel through the club, which is fed by the Rio dos Macacos river has dried out.
According to the Secretariat for the Environment the Lagoa normally has a depth of 3.20 meters and the water level is on average forty centimeters above sea level. Currently, the level has fallen to seventeen centimeters.
Rio Mayor Luiz Fernando Pezão has asked President Dilma Rousseff for a meeting on Wednesday, January 27th to discuss the situation and ask for help of the federal government. In São Paulo, the government has already signed an agreement for a new water supply system and a channel between Jaguari and the Cantareira reservoirs.
A cold front with rain has been forecast to hit Rio on Friday, January 30th. But according to experts these rains will not be enough to fill the reservoirs again.