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Sao Paulo's state basic sanitation company, Sabesp, reported today that the level of the second level of the so-called “dead volume”, a technical reserve that began to be used in November, operates at 6.2% of its capacity.
90 kilometers from Sao Paulo, in the city of Nazaré Paulista, the inhabitants regret the situation, since the Atibainha dam, which supplies the water system of the Cantareira reservoirs, is part of their life. As the water level drops, the bed of the dam brings to light dead animals, a lot of garbage and even a rusted Ford Escort where a few days ago someone made a graffiti with the inscription "Welcome to the Cantareira desert."
The reservoir, below its capacity: The reservoir is several meters below its normal capacity and the new president of the São Paulo state water company Sabesp, Jerson Kelman, warns that the reservoir may dry up from March. Some more optimistic forecasts from the Ministry of Science and Technology give life to the system until June.
"What is happening is the fault of the drought and of the authorities, the governors, who did not save water when there was," says the merchant Manoel Lisboa, who from the southern Porto Alegre moved 24 years ago to Nazaré Paulista to live overlooking the lake.
A lake, that of the Atibainha dam, that lost its glamor since a little less than a year ago the water crisis caused the capacity to be used to the maximum for the generation of drinking water in Sao Paulo. Tourism sector: "Tourism is being affected," says Elisabeth de Souza, who works in a bar in front of the dam, now overlooking little water and a lot of dry, cracked land, which led the leisure boats to abandon the place. "It is a sad situation, every day that passes we see the dam increasingly empty," declares this 39-year-old woman who, together with her neighbors, is buying water because, she says, the wells have dried up.
In Nazaré Paulista and in the rest of the region, including the city of Braganca Paulista, the drought is noticeable even without the need to turn on a tap because notices to buy drinking water distributed by tanker trucks proliferate on the road and avenues. Cantareira is a system of six reservoirs that supplies a third of the 19 million inhabitants of the metropolitan region of Sao Paulo and has been operating at capacity limit since 2014.
The situation has not improved with the summer rains, which have hit the capital city of Sao Paulo, but have not reached the region that needs it most, that of the Cantareira dam system.
What used to be the riverbed are now mounds of dry earth that must be walked on, as if it were lunar soil, but under the sun, at 35 degrees and with no rain in sight that when it appears, despite its strength, it fails to raise the levels of one of the largest water supply systems in the world.