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Dysentery & Dengue » Silent Springs?

Source: Diário do Centro do Mundo

“We are reducing the water pressure, which in itself constitutes rationing. What we no not yet have is the rotating schedule. There are people out there  who may be drinking contaminated water, but I prefer to think that this has not yet happened …. —Paulo Massato (Sabesp)

The latest newsflow on the drought that castigates São Paulo and other major cities. Two technicians from Sabesp, the state water and sewer company, explain how water usage and forecasting depends on technical considerations:

The metropolitan director of Sabesp, Paulo Massato, has acknowledged that the state-owned firm is failing to observe technical norms by reducing the water pressure necessary to supply portions of São Paulo with water.

ofMassato says that Sabesp is far from complying with the Brazilian standard, which calls for the maintenance of sufficient pressure to fill a cistern ten meters high, or what is called in technical terms a ten meter water column, a unit that measures the pressure of distribution. According to the Sabesp director, current pressure is only one meter.

“There is not enough pressure to reach the minimum level of 10 meters, especially in distant areas and areas located on high ground,” Massato said. In practice, the excess reduction of pressure would have the same effects as a rationing scheme based on a rotating schedule, which would leave neighborhoods without water for several day — 5 days, in fact.

This practice violates the recommendations that regulate the public distribution of water as set by ABNT, the Brazilian Association of Technical Norms.

Massato, testifying before the city legislature’s parliamentary inquiry into Sabesp’s contracts with the city government, justified the failure to comply by citing the gravity of the situation: “We are in a highly abnormal situation. We cannot serve 6 million residents [supplied by the Cantareira System] if we proceed normally.

ARSESP, the state sanitation and electricity regulator, says it will demand clarifications from the company and, depending on the response, could classify the practice as an infraction subject to a fine.

This is not the first time Sabesp has been questioned about the water pressure maintained in the system.

After some 400 consumer complaints about dry taps and insuffient pressure, Arsesp did an investigation of its own, between June and September 2014, into Sabesp’s Operational Control Centers. It discovered that water pressure in the pipes was two meters short of the recommended pressure, as the Estado de S. Paulo reported.

At the time, Governor Geraldo Alckim defended Sabesp management and dismissed what  Massato had stated. “Sabesp is in compliance with the ABNT standard, which is a 10-meter water column,” Alckmin said in Decenber, affirming at the same time that problems with the water supply were “transitory.”

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“There is no pressure reduction. Sabesp is simply closing the taps.”

Sabesp, which discarded rationing two months ago, now ponders a “drastic rotation scheme”

This is not the first time that Massato has made statements contrary to the official line. He was the Sabesp director who introduced the phrase “drastic rotation” when he announced the possibility that customer would live five days a week without water from the tap.  “A rotating scheme is heavy-handed, very drastic. In order to get more water than we have stored up so far, you would have to have two days with water and five days without,” Massato said in late January. Three days later, Alckmin denied this forecast.

Massato was also heard on an audio recording of a Sabesp board meeting, leaked last October.“This is excruciating, an unbearable anxiety. Someone has been playing games, but this game is a serious one. We are going to give out free vacations … [People] will leave São Paulo, because there is no water here for the bath, the kitchen, for housecleaning, not even for those who can afford to buy bottled water. Those who can’t will have to take their showers at their mother’s house in Santos, Ubatuba, or Águas de São Pedro, whatever, here there won’t be anything”, the director said.

The leaking of the tape threw a bucket of cold water on a state government still trying to minimize the problem.

During the session of the CPI, at every opportunity, the director and the CEO avoided the term “rationing” at first, until Massato explained that Sabesp’s pipes are suffering reductions in pressure and that this [rotating rationing] would be a way to control consumption and distribution according to fixed schedule without interrupting the system as a whole.

Kelman exhibited data that differs from the documents presented by his predecessor, Dilma Pena, in 2014. In Kelman’s view, the loss of water through leakages has fallen, since 2004, to 29%. These data are not consistent with previous reports that indicated a loss of 36% of the resources in the piping system.

Kelman, formerly of Light (Rio de Janeiro), also emphasized the bonus program to stimulate reduced consumption, announced by Geraldo Alckmin in February 2014 and producing results in 2015.