By Lisa Flueckiger, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The month of July has been another dry month for Rio de Janeiro leading the water reservoirs feeding the city to come close to their ‘dead’ levels, critical for the dams’ turbines and water and electricity supply for the population. The Southeast of Brazil had already faced a drought in the summer months of 2014/2015 and the reservoirs have yet to recover.
So far, it has only rained 5mm of the average 50mm that are to be expected in July. And not much more rain is estimated to fall over the next days, even though a cold front will reach the city for the weekend. According to meteorologist Marcelo Pinheiro from Climatempo the amount of rain will amount to 10mm on maximum until Sunday.
“And even if it rains next week, where we have a forecast of a new cold front, the accumulated [amount of rain] will only increase slightly and will not reach the [monthly] average,” Pinheiro told O Dia.
Paraibuna, the largest reservoir feeding Rio de Janeiro, was at 47.32 percent of its capacity on Monday, July 20th only slightly above the level needed for electricity generation. Jaguari, Funil and Santa Branca are in more stable situations and above their dead levels, but all water supplies are well below the amount registered last year.
In São Paulo it has rained around 21mm in July so far. However, the Cantareira and Alto Tietê reservoirs, both supplying water to around five million people, are only at around eighteen percent of their capacity. Smaller reservoirs in the state are at larger levels, but are decreasing as well.
According to Marcelo Schneider from the National Institute for Meteorology, weather phenomenon ‘El Niño’ is to blame for the drought. “The phenomenon El Niño is what has influenced this increased lack of rain and above average temperatures in the last months,” he told O Dia.
“The impact is different in the regions. In the South, for example, the forecast is for heavy rain in the coming months. In the Southeast and Northeast, you must not waste water,” he continued to explain.
On top of the weather, water waste is also to blame. Reports of leaks are frequent, as CEDAE, Rio’s water supply agency, reportedly receives sixty complaints per day. In 2014, the agency’s teams had to fix more than 28,000 leaks. According to a report by the Ministry of Cities, Rio de Janeiro is one of the cities with the most waste of water.
Brazil as a whole loses water six times the volume of Cantareira, the largest water reservoir in São Paulo, per year. This waste corresponds to losses of around R$8 billion.
Experts are afraid that with the current water levels in the reservoirs and without rain, the situation in the summer will get even worse than last year, where mainly the São Paulo region suffered from lack of water and electricity.