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The Caminhão-Pipas of Higienópolis

Source: Diário do Centro do Mundo


Since last October, as the water crisis in São Paulo intensified, demand for «caminhão-pipas» — water tanker trucks — has grown significantly in the greater metro area. Some water tanker companies report that demand is up by as much as 35%.

“The number of clients served on a given day rose from 110 to 150,” estimates Edmilson Gusmão, a partner in Parnaíba Water Transport, headquartered in Santana de Parnaíba. With a fleet of 48 trucks at his command and servicing the city and outlying townships, he is thinking of growing his business. “We  are going to invest in new equipment in order to meet the demand,” he promises.

Água Leste, in the far east area of the city, has also seen its client base multiply.  “Today we are making 15 more deliveries per day,” Antonio Belentani Júnior. The service most commonly requested is refilling residential storage tanks.

At that rate, a 5,000 liter truck, the smallest size available, costs between R$ 280 and R$ 650 depending on the address of the client (the further the  distance, the higher the freight). Those who live nearby, however, tend to have smaller reservoirs, with a capacity of 1,500 liters.  “In those cases, two or three neighbors might get together and order the delivery jointly,” Junior suggests.

But small deliveries are less common than visits from trucks equipped to deliver larger volumes.  Águamax, in the northern zone of São Paulo, delivers 15,000 liters or more and charges R$ 600 for the service. This volume is sufficient to supply a family of four, barring waste, for up to thirty days.

Companies that provide this service normally extract their water from their own artesian wells.

Naturally, if Sabesp is not supplying the need, but it does raise questions about the source of the water. Apparently, non-registered aquifers are common enough that they can effect the flow from the reservoirs.

Have a look at these posts for some background on the issues.

According to the city government, 22 firms registered with the city are cleared to supply, transport, and distribute potable water via water truck. This means that only these possess a permit from the Municipal Register of Health Inspection, issued by COVISA, the Coordinator of Health Inspections.

According to the city, the tanks must be cleaned every six months and sanitary measures are the responsibility of the vehicle’s owner. Each water truck must display the name, address and telephone number of the company, and be ready to show that the water in question is fit for human consumption.

The more mundane business of delivering propane to residences without piped gas — like our beloved poçilga —  follows a similar model, delivering botijões — kegs — on order or even patrolling neighborhoods like an ice cream truck, playing a soft melody. Until recently, these businesses universally unnerved residents with a blitzkrieg rap-spiel delivered through a Jamaican sound system turned up to 11.