Rio's Metropolitan Region Faced with Water and Electrical Shut Downs

October 10, 2016

São Paulo has been going through an extreme drought and water shortage, one that started at the beginning of the summer season and doesn’t seem to be letting up anytime soon. Amidst much of the criticism and analysis of why São Paulo is experiencing such a drastic water shortage, many expect Rio de Janeiro to be the next victim. With a population of 20 million, São Paulo has shown that large, industrialized, cities still run the risk of overusing necessary and basic resources such as water. They have become a cautionary tale to cities around the world and in Brazil.

While I haven’t experienced any kind of water shortage while living in Rio, I can firmly say that water is abundantly, maybe over abundantly, used in the city. Many of the beaches in Zona Sul - Leme, Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon - all use generator powered showers on the beaches for beach goers to wash off. They also serve as a way to wet the hot sand making it walkable for beach goers. In my experience, these showers have been the best part of the beach since they are free, clean, and make the beach more comfortable, but it always strikes me how wasteful they are, especially when I think about the dramatic water crisis happening just a few hours away.

Recently, cities within the metropolitan region of Rio de Janeiro have experienced both water and electrical shut downs. In the neighboring cities of Niteroí, Maricá, and São Gonçalo, water and electricity were shut off for varying amounts of time. Since much of the electricity in Brazil is hydroelectric, it’s no surprise that there are electric shortages during a time of drought. Niteroí, the closest of the three metropolitan cities, experienced a 24-hour water shut down on the 22nd of February, only a couple days after the end of Carnaval.1 Other areas experienced nearly a week without electricity. The fact that neighboring cities are experiencing shortages, but not Rio itself, makes me wonder if this is natural or a way for the city to syphon energy and water during a shortage; either way, something needs to be done about resources in Rio de Janeiro.

There’s no denying that Rio uses a lot of water, and the shortages in neighboring cities are something that shouldn’t go unnoticed. After a huge Carnaval, where millions of people descended upon the city, and used it’s valuable resources, Rio needs to conserve as much energy and water as possible to ensure that it doesn’t enter into a crisis that has been forecasted since the early summer for this marvelous city.

1) "Abastecimento De água Só Deve Ser Retomado Na Tarde Desta Segunda-feira Em Niterói." O Globo. N.p., 23 Feb. 2015. Web. 23 Feb. 2015. <



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Sophia Winston
Sophia Winston is a Spanish and Urban Studies major at the University of Pittsburgh, she is also pursuing a certificate in Latin American Studies and a minor in Portuguese. She has spent a semester abroad in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and is currently a senior.