Houseboats float in California’s drought-lowered Oroville Lake.
Houseboats float in California’s drought-lowered Oroville Lake.

Severe Droughts Unleash Water Crises in California, Brazil

By Climatelinks

The United States and Brazil are both facing water shortages of historic proportions in some of their largest population centers, Fortune magazine reported on April 6.

In California, the government issued mandatory water use reductions (4/1), as severe drought conditions stretched into a fourth year. The New York Times (4/2) said it was the first time California issued mandatory restrictions, while the Los Angeles Times (4/7) reported mandatory reductions varied by locale. The Washington Post (4/3) said California officials are coming under scrutiny for maintaining supplies to the agriculture sector, which accounts for 80 percent of the state’s water use.

In Brazil, National Geographic (3/13) reported that a severe drought in the nation’s commercial hub, Sao Paulo, was the worst in eight decades and has led some citizens to go “wildcat” drilling for groundwater. Drought is a complex interaction between natural phenomena and human actions, the author observed, warning that such conditions may be part of a “new normal.”

The Economist magazine features a graphic of the historic reservoir lows in Sao Paulo and a map of severe drought conditions across the Southwestern United States.  

Urban, Water and Sanitation



Climatelinks is a global knowledge portal for USAID staff, implementing partners, and the broader community working at the intersection of climate change and international development. The portal curates and archives technical guidance and knowledge related to USAID’s work to help countries mitigate and adapt to climate change. 

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