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Rolling blackouts have begun in Brazil as mega-drought arrives; residents told to prepare for the worst


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(NaturalNews) The American West is not the only region of the world experiencing historically severe drought. Parts of the largest nation in South America -- Brazil -- are currently suffering through their worst periods of drought in decades as well, and as drought conditions worsen, citizens are being told that things are likely to get worse.

As reported by Britain's Guardian newspaper, water taps have run dry and there have been rolling electrical outages across wide swaths of Brazil in recent days as the nation's worst-ever drought continues to spread, from Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro and further.

The paper also noted in its online editions:

More than four million people have been affected by rationing and rolling power cuts as this tropical nation discovers it can no longer rely on once abundant water supplies in a period of rising temperatures and diminishing rainfall.

Many people don't understand how bad this is

The fallout, both politically and economically, for the world's seventh largest economy, is becoming more and more obvious. The conditions have sparked citizen protests in particularly dry neighborhoods, where many have taken to the streets. In addition, coffee crops have been adversely affected, while many businesses have had to close and pedal-boat operators have shuttered as lakes dry up.

In Sao Paulo, the largest city in South America and the most drought-ravaged, a year's worth of water shortages has cut water use in the city by one-quarter from the previous January. That said, Jerson Kelman, the head of the main water company, Sabesp, has told consumers that they need to do more to help the utility "prepare for the worst."

"There is a significant part of the population that is not yet aware of the seriousness of the situation and refuses to change habits," he wrote in an op-ed that was published recently in a local paper. "They must be convinced to change their behaviour."

If the drought continues, he said they would have to implement full-scale water rationing, even though city officials denied that that would have to happen during elections last year.

The Guardian further noted that the shortages in water were also affecting the country's power infrastructure:

At least six cities have been hit by blackouts due to weak hydroelectricity generation and high demand for air conditioning as temperatures soar over 35C [95F]. In response, utilities are burning more fossil fuels, adding to the cost of energy and greenhouse gas emissions. The government acknowledged [recently] that Brazil is also now importing power from Argentina to try to cover the shortfall.

In Sao Paulo, subways on one train line were halted for about an hour on a recent day. Lights and Internet service have also been cut in some regions for days at a time, which has caused major inconveniences to residents while businesses have lost money.

Worst drought in 80 years

One of Brazil's major industries, agriculture, has also suffered mightily. The Guardian noted that production of arabica coffee beans, which Brazil supplies in greater amounts than any other nation, fell by 15 percent last year, which caused prices for the commodity to rise by nearly 50 percent.

And growers in Minas Gerais said total rainfall in 2014 was about 35 inches, or just half of its normal level. Since coffee has a two-year growing cycle, industry experts and growers note that impacts in output and prices will be felt into next year as well, even if rains return in 2015.

In addition to coffee production, sugar production has fallen as well, as has ethanol, which is made from sugar in Brazil. Earlier in January, Raizen -- Brazil's largest sugar and ethanol producer -- said it would have to lay off 250 workers and stop all production at its Bom Retiro mill for two years because of shortages of sugar cane, due to the drought.

"Seventeen of the country's 18 biggest reservoirs are at lower levels than during the last water crisis in 2001. The southeast is worst affected," The Guardian reported.

The BBC added that the country's most populous regions are being affected by what has become the worst drought in 80 years.






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