The problem stems from a lack of water at the Cantareira, a complex of reservoirs and small dams built in the 1970’s that are the primary source of water for more than 10 million people in the state.
The water levels at the Cantareira are now below four percent, the lowest in recorded history, and estimates on when it could totally dry range from November to March of next year. A visit to the town of Nazare Paulista revealed how bad things are, with the water lines under bridges visible, and abandoned cars appearing from the mud of what was once underwater.
In May, just a few weeks before the World Cup, and with the water levels nearing 10 percent, officials released what they called an emergency "dead volume" reserve of water into the Cantareira to boost volumes back up to above 20 percent. But with almost no rain, it went down to record lows. Officials are now debating if they want to release a second round of reserve water, as there are disagreements over whether it is healthy for drinking.
Re-using sewage water
The state of Sao Paulo is larger than the UK, has a population of 44 million equal to Kenya, and a local economy of nearly $700bn equal to the Netherlands. Residents of Itu, an old and historic municipality in Sao Paulo state, told Al Jazeera they had no other choice than to re-use sewage water to flush their toilets.
On Friday, dozens of people appeared at a local ravine overgrown with shrubs, all desperate to get any water they could from an obscure water pipe, the only source in their neighbourhood.