International Rainwater Catchment Systems Conference
Catchment: An Answer to the Water Scarcity of the Next Millennium."
Petrolina, Brazil - July 1999
Section 1: Strategy for Rainwater Utilization in the Next Millennium
Water Potentials in the Brazilian Semiarid Zone:
Perspectives for an Efficient Use
Aldo da C. Rebouças
Universidade de São Paulo
Rua Eduardo Silva Magalhães, 510
Pq. Continental, CEP 05324-000, São Paulo, SP, Brasil
In the central region of the Northeast, yearly rainfall is
very irregular and varies between 500 and 800 mm/year. These meteorological
conditions combine with the prevalence of a geological base formed by
underground crystalline rock and practically impermeable, resulting in
temporary rivers and semiarid soil conditions in about 10% of the national
The vision of permanent rivers gives us the idea of
abundance, while the temporary rivers of the Northeast leave us with the
impression of scarcity. It needs to be emphasized that ideas of abundance and
scarcity related to visions of permanent or temporary rivers, are as wrong as
the geocentricism based on the vision of the sun's motion from one end to the
other end of our horizon.
In reality, the physical and climatic conditions predominant
in Brazil's Sertão (arid and remote interior) in the Northeast, can make life
difficult, demanding more diligence and more rationality using its natural
resources in general and water in particular, but they are not responsible for
the widely spread and tolerated poverty patterns. What is missing most in
Brazil in general and in the Northeast in particular, is not water, but a
prevailing cultural pattern increasing confidence and increasing the efficiency
of public and private organizations dealing with water questions.
The main goal of this paper is to refuse the physical and
climatic determinism, which has served as justification for a culture of a
water crisis in the world as well as in Brazil, as well as the draught culture
in the Northeast.
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