Emerging water conflict in Fortaleza, Brazil

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“Do not take our water.” A simple message.  Don’t take our water. Over the past ten months, communities in the peripheral northwest region of Fortaleza, Brazil have begun to organize against the state’s “water security plan” to manage the five-year drought for the metropolitan region of 3.5 million people. The plan, which attends to the broader needs of water supply, reworks how the overall regional system utilizes surface water.  While superficial strategies addressed conservation, the larger strategy targeted structural and infrastructural change — drilling horizontal, industrial groundwater wells and installing major water transfers– to move water to the special economic zone and steel industrial complex on the coast.  The change would then, theoretically, reduce the industrial complex’s dependency on the region’s scarce surface water resources.  Communities adjacent to the industrial complex  protest the water transfers and deep wells, fearing that this will reduce their traditional access, for some, and for others living and depending on the shallow groundwater, reduce their individual water security.  Indeed, it seems that one’s water security is another’s water insecurity, and the resulting social protest and continued backlash will continue.  We will keep posting about this emerging water conflict as the months go by.

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Lagamar protest encampment on aquaduct infrastructure slated to transfer water from the local water source to the industrial complex  (Wendy Jepson, January 2018).