Approaching drastic water rationing in Sao Paulo

One downside of rapid urban growth is illustrated in Brazil where drastic water rationing may start soon:

In São Paulo, the country’s largest city with a metropolitan area of 20 million people, the main reservoir is at just 6 percent of capacity with the peak of the rainy season now past…

After January rains disappointed, and incentives to cut consumption fell short, São Paulo officials warned their next step could be to shut off customers’ water supply for as many as five days a week – a measure that would likely last until the next rainy season starts in October, if not longer.

State officials say they have not yet decided whether or when to implement such rationing, in part because they are still hoping for heavy rains in February and March. Indeed, thunderstorms in recent days have caused lakes to rise a bit.

Still, independent projections suggest that São Paulo’s main Cantareira reservoir could run out of water as soon as April without drastic cuts to consumption.

While this problem may seem far away, I imagine numerous big cities around the world would face major problems in addressing a shortage of certain resources if something “out of the ordinary” – whether weather or changing political conditions – occurred. Wealthier big cities are expected at the most basic level to have water, electricity, sewers, and other features of modern infrastructure but these could be threatened by a variety of factors. And while the article notes that residents and institutions are scrambling to meet the crisis, cities should have some sort of long-term planning for some of these foreseeable issues.

Sao Paulo traffic jams can stretch over 100 miles

A massive traffic jam in China last year attracted a lot of attention but it sounds like Sao Paulo has this beat: how about traffic jams over 100 miles long?

This is the city of Sao Paulo, Brazil, where the BBC reports that, in the city of 11 million, traffic jams average 112 miles long on Friday evenings. It can even stretch to 183 miles on particularly bad days. With so much time spent in cars, it’s inevitable that life events like meeting your future spouse occur there too.

IBM’s annual Commuter Pain Survey (which did not include Sao Paulo) awarded Mexico City the ‘most painful’ ranking:

The index is comprised of 10 issues: 1) commuting time, 2) time stuck in traffic, agreement that: 3) price of gas is already too high, 4) traffic has gotten worse, 5) start-stop traffic is a problem, 6) driving causes stress, 7) driving causes anger, 8) traffic affects work, 9) traffic so bad driving stopped, and 10) decided not to make trip due to traffic.

Mexico City scored the worst overall, and Sao Paulo’s traffic jams may cover the longest distance. The record for worst traffic jam ever, though, goes to China.

Any solutions to this problem? The BBC report has some ideas:

Professor Barbieri says Sao Paulo has skilled and experienced traffic engineers that somehow manage to get the city to flow, albeit slowly.

“But the big problem is that we Brazilians are terrible with planning and traffic will only become more manageable if we start looking into real long-term solutions.”

But he is also clear that a “more manageable traffic” environment is the best possible scenario that can be achieved.

“No city in the world will ever manage to end congestion because when traffic flows, people are drawn to their cars. The key is to find a balance, the point at which it is worthwhile for commuters to use public transport because it’s faster then driving,” he says.

“That way Sao Paulo needs urgently to invest more in public transport instead of building new roads and expressways that will only be filled up with more cars.”

While the article suggests the local helicopter industry is thriving, it sounds like an opportunity for an enterprising politician or leader to chart a new course.