Updated 09:52 PM EDT, Fri, Oct 30, 2020

Brazil Drought Crisis: Residents of the Largest Cities Forced to Migrate in Search of Water

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The drought that hit southeast Brazil continues to worsen, forcing residents to severe water rationing or to migrate to other areas.

The severe drought plaguing the country's southeast region, which includes São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and the city of Rio, is attributed to climate change by some experts, CRI wrote. This year, more regular rains have helped improve water levels at some reservoirs a little, but plenty of areas are still lacking water supply.

Some water conservation groups have projected that Cantareira, São Paulo's most important reservoir system, only has enough water to last about five months, NPR reported. The Marina Confiança, a resort that was teeming with tourists until a year ago, is one of the businesses that have been greatly affected by the drought in the city. Four or five other marinas have closed completely as well.

Nine million residents depending on the reservoir system for their daily water use are forced to ration, NPR added. Some have moved to other cities where there is adequate water supply, such as the city of Jundiai, which is about two hours away from São Paulo.

This drought crisis is deemed shocking by Brazilians, who are used to their country being called "the Saudi Arabia of Water," the news outlet further reported. Now, satellite data from NASA found that the drought in southeast Brazil is worse than originally believed, and that it could be linked to the deforestation in the Amazon jungle. As much as 40 percent of the forest is destroyed or degraded.

Alexandre Uezu, an ecologist with São Paulo's Ecological Research Institute, explained that trees in the Amazon soak up water through their roots and produce massive amounts of water vapor that circulate the continent and fall as rain, NPR added.

"Were it not because of flying rivers, airflows, the whole area here would be desert," he said, as quoted by NPR. "So we're dependent on the humidity that comes from Amazon."

The drought could also be caused by other issues such as poor planning. But Uezu stressed out that the "vast tract of trees in the middle of the continent is crucial to the well-being of people on the coasts, where most Brazilians live," the news outlet reported.

According to CRI, residents are coping with the crisis by drilling wells and buying expensive water from water tank trucks. Marussia Whately, the coordinator for the non-governmental organization "Alliance for Water," said that the problem is exacerbated by the National Waters Agency, which restricts the distribution of water from a water treatment plant in Rio de Janeiro's Guandu River.

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