Sao Paulo Warned to Take Steps to Avoid World Cup Water Shortage

The World Water Council is warning Sao Paulo, Brazil’s biggest city, to take emergency measures to conserve water as the region reels from a record drought or risk supply shortages during the World Cup.

Sabesp, as Brazil’s largest water utility is known, should implement “heavy fines” for excessive use to help avoid any shortfalls during the soccer championship, Benedito Braga, the group’s president, said today in Sao Paulo. The city is hosting the inaugural game and five other matches of the World Cup that runs from June 12 to July 13.

The drought has shrunken water levels in Cantareira’s basin, which supplies almost half of the 20 million residents of metropolitan Sao Paulo, to 14.7 percent of capacity, lowest since at least 1982. The council counts among its members the UN’s Food & Agriculture Organization, UNESCO, water authorities worldwide and companies such as Royal Dutch Shell Plc.

“The solution is to use water strictly for hygiene and health only and not for washing cars or sidewalks -- that’s the only way out that we have,” Braga said. “If none of these measures are taken, if there are no fines for those who use water inappropriately and if they’re not cut off, without a doubt we run risks” of shortages during the World Cup.

Guarulhos, site of Sao Paulo’s international airport, cuts off water to 850,000 residents every other day, the city’s water and sewage service said on its website. It’s called on residents to take shorter showers as record low rainfall has been worsened by rising water usage due to higher temperatures.

Sabesp began work on March 17 to siphon 200 billion liters (528 million gallons) of water from the Cantareira basin, enough to serve Sao Paulo’s metropolitan region for almost four months, according to the utility’s website.

Construction on the 80 million-real ($34.4 million) project will last two months and include two canals totaling 3.5 kilometers (1.9 miles). Sabesp did not immediately provide further details following requests by e-mail and phone call.

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