By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Facing the worst water shortage in history, the nine cities which make up the São Paulo Metropolitan area have began to take action to try to reduce water consumption. On Monday, February 9th, São Paulo’s water utility agency SABESP will start to deliver water bills with fines for those who are using more water than usual. The fines range from 40 to 100 percent of the bill.
“We hope to see a strong reduction in consumption in the short-term,” said Water Resources Secretary for São Paulo state, Benedito Braga, during a seminar last week to discuss the water problems in São Paulo.
“We will expand the economic instruments for the reduction of consumption, offering a bonus for those who save and a fine for those who waste [water],” he added.
According to São Paulo’s water regulating agency, ARSESP, “the customer whose monthly consumption surpasses the average registered between February 2013 and January 2014 will be fined. Those who surpass the average by up to twenty percent will pay a forty percent fine over the total, while those who surpass their average by more than twenty percent will see their water bill double.”
There has not been a strong negative reaction to the announcement of the a fines, with most residents aware of the gravity of the situation. A survey conducted by Datafolha for daily Folha de S. Paulo last week showed that sixty percent of residents in the São Paulo Metropolitan area are in favor of a water rationing program and that 71 percent have already faced a shortage of water in past month. The same survey shows that 37 percent of these residents blame the state government for the water crisis.
Despite the heavy rains which fell on the city the past week, the Cantareira water system, which supplies water to more than 8.8 million inhabitants in the city of São Paulo, is currently only at 5.9 percent of its capacity. If the level drops further, analysts say, a water rationing program may be installed by April or May in the city and surrounding counties.