Abstract

From 2013 to 2015, Brazil faced a severe water crisis that led 1,485 out of its 5,561 municipalities to declare a state of emergency. The year 2014 was the driest in the history of the State of São Paulo since meteorological data started to be collected in the 1930s. The drought affected over 20 million people in the São Paulo metropolitan area alone inasmuch as the volume of the city’s main
system of reservoirs started to dramatically decrease in mid-2013, and was depleted in the following year. Whereas extreme weather events have caused water shortages and many other social, economic and environmental impacts around the world, the São Paulo water crisis unearthed a series of challenges in terms of water security. Besides the persistent pollution of watershed areas and poor natural resource management and planning, the absence of data, transparency and lack of room for social participation in water governance are key factors that explain the unprecedented water crisis in Latin America’s largest metropolitan region. To be sure, the 2014 São Paulo water crisis showed that, for any metropolitan region to successfully design climate change adaptation and sustainable development strategies at large, it is crucial to understand the political nature of water security. The aim of this paper is therefore to highlight the main causes and effects of severe water shortages in São Paulo Macrometropolis and, based on empirical evidence, share the main experiences, challenges and opportunities for water governance improvement
in dense metropolitan regions. To this end, it draws on a framework of environmental governance analysis and effectiveness of institutional agreements to assess how São Paulo Macrometropolis is complying with SDG 6 targets. We argue that the lessons learned from São Paulo water crisis might strength strategies for other megacities and metropolitan areas, especially in the Global
South.

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