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Drought headaches in Brazil's WCup opener city

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 28, 2014 at 12:13 pm •  Published: May 28, 2014

SAO PAULO (AP) — As if Brazil didn't have enough to deal with as the World Cup approaches, the worst drought in more than 80 years is hitting the country's largest city just as it prepares for the tens of thousands of foreigners expected at the tournament opener.

The hotel industry says tourist areas at Sao Paulo's lower elevations shouldn't be affected by the water shortage. Many places where Cup visitors will stay have contracts with private companies to supply water if cuts occur, said Bruno Hideo Omori, president of the Brazilian Hotel Industry Association in Sao Paulo state. "They have contingency plans and are very prepared to deal with emergencies," he said.

But residents of Sao Paulo's poorer neighborhoods are convinced that the government is rationing their water to ensure that cuts aren't made in the wealthier areas expecting a flood of visitors for the June 12 open of international soccer's premier tournament.

The poorer areas, many on the city outskirts or at higher elevations, are unquestionably the most affected when Sao Paulo state's local water company reduces water pressure as a conservation method throughout the system during off-peak hours, between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Some poorer satellite cities around Sao Paulo have suffered cuts every other day since March.

"Water stops running when night falls. There's a lack of water, and the government won't admit it," said Luis Henrique Oseliero, who manages and lives in an apartment building in a working-class neighborhood in the city's west. "They are doing it in these areas because they know it's not where tourists will stay."

The state government's water utility acknowledges that areas at higher altitudes or farthest from the reservoir could suffer interruptions in water service. But it denies the suspicions of people living in poorer neighborhoods that their water is being rationed.

"There is no rationing or restriction of water consumption in any of the 365 municipalities served by our company," the Basic Sanitation Company of the State of Sao Paulo said in an emailed statement answering questions about drought measures. "(The company) invested heavily in measures to increase the security of water supply in the metropolitan region of Sao Paulo, and these investments are more than enough to meet the extra demand during the World Cup."

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