The biggest city in the Western hemisphere is facing its greatest water crisis in over 80 years — and climate change is only part of the problem. Millions of residents in São Paulo, Brazil, face daily water shutoffs unless the city manages its water better. It is not only a problem of drought. The city of 20 million is plagued by failing infrastructure across the city, and it has been unable to deliver the water it does have to residents in need. Without major changes to the city’s infrastructure and planning, commentators say the crisis is bound to continue.

The crisis is most acutely felt in the Periferia — the generally poorer districts on the outskirts of the city. These oft-neglected neighborhoods, many of which sit at higher altitudes in the hills around the city, require more water pressure to reach their tanks. And even on days when it is raining outside, the pipes in the Periferia are often dry. On top of it all, São Paulo has now suffered two of the driest seasons on record, back-to-back. The Cantareira reservoirs, which supply water to over 9 million residents, were operating at 12% capacity in October. The water level has fallen so low that large parts of the surface of the reservoirs are dried mud. CONTINUE