The water at the Cantareira reservoirs, which supply about nine million of the 20 million people in the metropolitan area, is at its lowest level ever amid the region's worst drought in 45 years. Other reservoirs are also in distress after 15 months of overstretching. And more dry weather is forecast.
Prosecutors have threatened to sue the state government to make it begin rationing water, warning that Sao Paulo is facing "the worst water crisis ever to hit the region and the collapse of its entire reservoir system." But with Governor Geraldo Alckmin up for reelection in October, his administration has vowed to handle the crisis without rationing the city's water.
State water company Sabesp has encouraged consumers to reduce their usage but also downplayed the shortage, saying it will transfer water from other dams and use emergency reserves if necessary. It says it has enough supplies to last until March 2015 and has vowed not to implement rationing.
But many Sabesp customers suspect their supplies are already being rationed. "Last week we went four whole days without water," said Adilson Becerra, a 36-year-old salesman who lives in the southern suburbs....