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Drought hampering Sao Paolo ahead of World Cup

May 28, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

Sao Paolo Reuters

An AP report says Sao Paolo is currently suffering the worst drought in more than 80 years with record low reservoir levels after receiving only one-third of the normal rain fall this year.

The drought is causing unrest in higher elevations where the majority of Sao Paolo’s poor neighborhoods reside with locals convinced the water company has reduced water pressure at night as a conservation method.

“Water stops running when night falls. There’s a lack of water, and the government won’t admit it,” said Luis Henrique Oseliero, who manages and lives in an apartment building in a working-class neighborhood. “They are doing it in these areas because they know it’s not where tourists will stay.”

The state government has acknowledged that areas at higher altitudes or far from the reservoir could suffer interruptions in water service but denies rationing by economic class.

“There is no rationing or restriction of water consumption in any of the 365 municipalities served by our company,” the Basic Sanitation Company of the State of Sao Paulo said in an emailed statement answering questions about drought measures. “(The company) invested heavily in measures to increase the security of water supply in the metropolitan region of Sao Paulo, and these investments are more than enough to meet the extra demand during the World Cup.”

But according to Jose Carlos Mierzwa, a University of Sao Paulo professor who focuses on sanitary engineering, rationing has to happen. “The government needs to resort to rationing,” he said. “The levels keep dropping, and it is becoming more and more critical.”

The question, of course, is whether such rationing is done equally across all economic levels. Equally important is whether travelers to Sao Paolo can be sure they will have adequate water during their stay. While the majority of hotels claim to have established “contingency plans” with private companies to supply water if cuts occur, this is far from an across-the-board guarantee. Due diligence feels like a good idea here.

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