A few weeks ago, the water supply in the Metropolitan Region of Belo Horizonte was a cause for concern. The Rio das Velhas, the main water catchment of the Minas Gerais Sanitation Company (Copasa), remains in a state of alert.
:: Privatization of sanitation in Ouro Preto causes revolt among residents ::
This happens when the water level in the river is below the average minimum for the last 10 years. In the case of the Rio das Velhas, the most recent flow mapped by the Rio das Velhas Hydrographic Basin Committee, on this 25th of August, was 10.3 cubic meters per second. The alert level is a flow of 10.48 cubic meters per second and the river is below that.
This alert already means the risk of lack of water for Belo Horizonte, for example. The water that supplies half the population of Belo Horizonte comes from Rio das Velhas, via Copasa. If the river lowers further and reaches 7.34 cubic meters per second, rationing will be a reality.
There are already people without water
As the saying goes: “a little flour, my mush first”, or would it be “a little water, my box first”? Even if unintentionally, some locations benefit from being closer to water catchment points or in lower neighborhoods. The hills and distant locations end up being the first to suffer from shortages.
The city of Sete Lagoas, for example, suspended the collection of water from the Rio das Velhas on August 20th. The Autonomous Water and Sewage Service (SAAE) reported that the collection had stopped due to the low quality of the water in the Velhas River. About 20 neighborhoods had their supply compromised.
The same happens in the higher regions of the Greater Belo Horizonte, especially in the hills and favelas, where water starts to run out sporadically.
Blame the lack of rain?
“There are several reasons for this water situation,” explains Poliana Valgas, president of the Rio das Velhas Hydrographic Basin Committee, the body that monitors and manages the use of water from the Velhas. For her, the low level of the river is related to water management, how we are using water resources in predatory activities and with the use and occupation of water production areas.
Developments, such as condominiums and mining, have been built in water recharge areas. It is from these points, below ground, that the water comes to literally recharge the river. Once destroyed, the Velhas cycle is interrupted.
:: Receive news from Minas Gerais on your Whatsapp. Click here ::
“You can’t just blame it on the rain that is decreasing. This set of factors creates imbalance and compromises the entire system. That’s why we’ve been losing the capacity for recharge and recovery along the basin”, he says.
This set of factors also includes the collapse of the Vale dam in Brumadinho, which destroyed a Copasa water collection station in 2019. The station was built in 2015 to solve the water crisis that already existed at that time. About 30% of the supply of Greater BH came from the Paraopeba River basin.
Copasa informs that the situation is stable
So far, there is no forecast of rationing in the Metropolitan Region of Belo Horizonte, Copasa informed our report. According to the company, the water situation in the state is adequate for the period with the volume of reservoirs around 77%.
“According to the historical series (2016/2021), the current reserve is much higher than the dry periods in previous years”, he guaranteed. Monitoring of these reservoirs is done daily and can be followed on the company’s page.
Source: BoF Minas Gerais
Edition: Elis Almeida