Why So Many Brazilians Are Showering In The Rain

Feb 17, 2015 at 4:18 PM ET

In the wake of the worst drought Brazil has seen in a century, most of the 20 million residents of São Paulo have been struggling with a severe water shortage. As a storm broke this week, paulistanos hoarded the rainfall, washed their cars and showered in the streets. Naturally, many of these displays wound up on YouTube and social media.

While the weather forecast for São Paulo predicts precipitation for the next three days, the overall 2015 rain season has been a dry one. The reservoir responsible for half the city’s water, Cantaeira, is only at 6 percent of its capacity. With only two months left in the season, it’s unlikely to reach sustainable levels.

On top of weather, experts say pollution, population growth and an inefficient, leaky water system contributed to the shortages seen both in São Paulo and other regions in southeastern Brazil. Deforestation is also a factor. Typically, the rainforests release huge clouds of humidity called “flying rivers” that bring rainfall to other areas. With the loss of forests, a recent local study suggests, water shortages such as this become more likely.

The World Resources Institute put together a map that shows how vulnerable certain parts of Brazil are to climate variability: