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Sao Paulo Biggest Water-Supply System May Run Dry Within 45 Days

Feb. 4 (Bloomberg) -- The system that provides half the drinking water to South America’s largest city, Sao Paulo, will run dry in 45 days if there’s no rain, amid the biggest drought on record.

The Cantareira water system, which supplies 10 million people in the region, is at less than a quarter of capacity, Francisco Lahoz, executive secretary of water association Consorcio PCJ, said in a telephone interview today. Once it falls below 20 percent, Brazil’s biggest water utility Cia. de Saneamento Basico do Estado de Sao Paulo will face difficulties transferring water between reservoirs.

The drought is affecting operations at companies. Beer producer Ambev SA interrupted operations at a factory and paper maker Rigesa Celulose Papel e Embalagens Ltda. shifted some production elsewhere because there isn’t enough river water to supply their facilities, Lahoz said. Both sites operate in the state’s interior Campinas region, where the drought is having a greater impact on industry than in Sao Paulo city.

Most companies in the Campinas region “are in a state of alert,” he said.

Companies including Petroleo Brasileiro SA that have petrochemical factories in the interior city of Paulinia and require large volumes of water face “extreme difficulties,” he said.

The Campinas region, which gets 60 percent of its water from the Cantareira system, is receiving 3 cubic meters of flow a second. That’s not enough to meet demand from industry, Alexandre Vilela, technical manager for Consorcio PCJ, said today in a telephone interview. Factories in the region need to use about seven times more chlorine to purify water from low-running rivers, raising their costs.

Campinas has Brazil’s third biggest industrial park and is responsible for 7 percent of the nation’s economic growth, he said.

Petrobras, Sabesp and Rigesa didn’t immediately reply to telephone calls and e-mails seeking comment. Ambev declined to comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephan Nielsen in Sao Paulo at snielsen8@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at landberg@bloomberg.net

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