SÃO PAULO — Months into a worsening water shortage that has South America's largest city on the brink of rationing, The São Paulo state government may soon encourage or force major companies in plastics and petrochemicals to start using more costly “reuse” water.
In an effort to reduce the demand by major industry on São Paulo's increasingly limited fresh water resources, the state government has been identifying companies in and around São Paulo city that could opt for more reuse water, which is treated by a private company with chemical processes and ultra-filtration. That water isn't considered safe for consumption, but can be used by factories for cooling and similar needs.
Manufacturers including Braskem SA, General Motors Co., Alcoa and Bridgestone have plants in industrial zones outside São Paulo that would likely be affected if the measure is implemented in the coming weeks. A government spokesman could not confirm if companies would be incentivized to reduce their use of fresh water with measures like tax rebates, or forced to do so via rationing measures by state water company Sabesp.
For those that choose to buy more reuse water, there should be at least 280 liters per second available in the region from Aquapolo Ambiental SA, a company formed through a public-private partnership by Sabesp and Odebrecht Ambiental.
Aquapolo currently has the capacity to produce 650 liters per second in the regional city of São Caetano do Sul, but about 370 liters of that is already claimed by Braskem and five other petrochemical companies in the area. Braskem has, at times, used the rest of the reuse water capacity available, according to Odebrecht Ambiental.
Reuse water costs more than fresh water in São Paulo, and companies that aren't connected to an existing pipe network for the reuse water would have to invest around 500,000 Brazilian reals ($179,700) in their own connection.
While more reuse water won't benefit the company financially, Braskem is planning to increase its use of the alternative from 28 percent last year to 40 percent by 2020 as part of its total water consumption, a company spokesman said.
The Cantareira, which supplies 6.2 million people and is the largest of Greater São Paulo's multiple reservoirs, was down to 5.9 percent capacity as of Feb. 9 following a year of historically low rainfall.