Water Resources of Sao Paulo, Brazil 1998

The course was funded by a Grant from the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation to:

" ... create a pilot program for an innovative, interdisciplinary approach to international education for teams of liberal arts and engineering students".

The faculty participants were Professor Martha Huggins, Sociology Dept., and Professor Phillip D. Snow, Civil Engineering Dept.

Major Areas/Topics Investigated in Sao Paulo

A. Drinking Water Treatment

1. Cantareira/ Guarau Drinking Water Treatment Plant.

2. Capacity: 31.5 cubic meters per second of water being treated. This is the largest Drinking Water plant in South America. This is equivalent to 720 Million Gallons per day. In comparison, the Latham, New York Drinking Water Treatment Plant, treats only 15 Million Gallons per day (0.6 cubic meters per second).

3. The Guarau Treatment Plant uses alum to coagulate and flocculate particles, which are then removed by settling and filtration. Chlorine is added to kill any bacteria and fluoride is added for the prevention of tooth decay.

4. Only the Chicago Drinking Water Plant is as large as Guarau.

Home   Gallery

B. Favelas in Sao Paulo

1. Maria Lucia Montes presented a seminar on the history and socioeconomic structure of favelas (extreme slums).

2. Tour through the favela with students, faculty, and led by a favela Priest.

3. Tour of "Cinqua Pora", concrete housing to relocate poor from favelas

4. Large numbers (1-2 million people) living in Sao Paulo favelas.

Home   Gallery

C. Watersheds, Rivers, Reservoirsin Sao Paulo

1. Historical, political, social, economic, and technological review of Sao Paulo and its river and reservoir systems was presented by Ana Cristina Costa from the Secretary of the Environment.

2. Numerous local, state and federal agencies were defined as well as their areas of responsibility.

3. The Tiete River with its numerous pollution problems was described.

4. The creation of the Billings Dam/Reservoir and the Borden Hydroelectric Plant in 1927 was shown as well as the subsequent problems caused by this project.

5. Cubatao, the large petrochemical/industrial complex near Sao Paulo and its tremendous Industrial pollution problems were discussed.

Home   Gallery

D. Field trip to the Tiete Springs area in Salesopolis

1. Tour guides (EcoTour) showed the special town of Salesopolis, which is in the watershed of the new Ponte Nova Reservoir. The emphasis is to change the peoples' habits - not to throw garbage on the streets, to remove solid waste/garbage with efficient waste pickup, not to allow soil erosion to contaminate streams, to treat all wastewater, and not let any untreated wastes enter the Alto (upper) Tiete River which might pollute the Ponte Nova Reservoir.

2. Tour of the spring (Nascentes Do Rio Tiete), that starts the flow of the Tiete River, and a drink from the spring was later capped off with Union Students swimming at the waterfalls on the clean section of the Alto Tiete.

3. Tour also were taken of the Eucalyptus tree farming areas, the Japanese farming areas, and the new, large dam that created the Ponte Nova Reservoir ( is used for flood control).In the future, it may be used as a drinking water source.

Home   Gallery

E. Domestic Wastewater Treatment

1. Barueri Plant- The tour guide was Rosa Monaro.

2. Built in 1977, it initially treats only 7 cubic meters per second (160 Million Gallons per Day) but it will be expanded to eventually treat 63 cubic meters per second (1.4 Billion Gallons per Day). Chicago, currently the largest wastewater treatment plant in the world, treats 980 Million Gallons per Day.

3. Schenectady, N.Y. uses very similar technology (primary settling, activated sludge secondary treatment, anaerobic digestion of sludge) but it only treats about 14 Million Gallons per Day(0.6 cubic meters per second) which is 100 times smaller than Barueri.

4. Currently (1995), 90% of the City of Sao Paulo had sewer pipes to collect and carry away the wastewater but almost all of it went, untreated, into the Tiete River. This made the Tiete one of the most polluted rivers in the world, with the wastewater of 14 million people going into the river.

5. The current technological solutions to this problem involve the construction of large Interceptor sewer pipes (3 to 5 feet in diameter) on both sides of the Tiete and the Pinheiros Rivers. These collect the raw wastewater (that currently goes directly to these rivers) and pumps it to treatment plants like Barueri. This plant will be expanded as more interceptors are constructed.

Home   Gallery

F. Drinking Water Reservoirs and Watersheds

1. Guarapiranga Reservoir; John Emilio Tatton was the tour guide and lecturer.

2. The need for Safe Drinking Water, both in quality and quantity, is a serious problem in Sao Paulo. The demand is for 63 cubic meters per second (1, 440 Million Gallons per Day) butmany sources are polluted and there are not enough reservoirs to supply all of the quantity needed by the growing population. It is getting harder to supply all of the areas during all times of the year, especially during drought months.

3. The Guarapiranga Reservoir is an example of a Drinking Water Source which is being increasingly polluted by unregulated population growth (favelas) in the watershed. This has led to a lot of human waste and garbage entering the reservoir along with sediment eroded from the deforested areas and subsequent algae growths in the water.

4. This uncontrollable growth (currently estimated at 600,00 people living in the watershed) has drastically decreased the water quality and may soon eliminate this reservoir as a source of safe drinking water (even with treatment). There has also been an increase of herbicides and pesticides in the water.

5. Also, problems within the Billings Reservoir were discussed. In the 1970's, the polluted Tiete River had much of its water diverted(pumped) to the Billings Reservoir using two dams and pumps to lift the water up to the Billings. This was to increase the hydroelectric power production at the Borden Hydroelectric plant and also increase fresh water supplies to the industries in Cubatao.

6. Unfortunately, this polluted the reservoir and destroyed the recreational potential as well as eliminating the Billings as a potential drinking water source.

Home   Gallery

G. Seminar on the History of Water Resources and Urban Growth in Sao Paulo Given by Proffesora Marilia do Val-Mackenzie Universadad

1. The area of Sao Paulo is on a plateau tilting inland with only a small, swampy coastal area and a port near Santos.

2. Growth was slow from 1552 until 1850 with the use of African slaves for agriculture and manual labor. Slaves carried drinking water into the town and slaves removed wastewater.

3. From 1850- 1900 there was a rapid growth due to immigration and the start of industrialization. It became a Republic in 1889; one year after slavery was abolished.

4. From 1900-1930, rapid growth in industrialization was due to electrification. Coffee and growth of agriculture was stimulated by Japanese immigrants.

5. 1930-1960, European immigration and heavy industry begins to grow.

6. 1960-1995, The growth of heavy industry stimulated internal migration to Sao Paulo that greatly increased its population.

Also, there was a shift in agriculture to sugar cane; being very important for alcohol production for automobiles. With rapid industrial and population growth, the air, water, and solid waste pollution in Sao Paulo has greatly increased.

Home   Gallery

H. Hydroelectric Power - The Billings Dam/Reservoir and the Henry Borden Power Plant

1. The power plant was built in 1927 and later expanded in 1956 with an underground plant. The entire complex can generate 880 Megawatts. This is gigantic compared to the Mohawk River Lock #7(Schenectady) hydroelectric plant at 6 Megawatts.

2. This plant is operated by ELECTROPAULO, which started as a Canadian company.

3. The original turbines are twin vertical Pelton wheels driving 60-Megawatt generators built by General Electric in Schenectady, N.Y.

4. The newer system uses one horizontal Pelton wheel driving 70-Megawatt generators.

5. Numerous other, and much larger, hydroelectric plants are part of CESP, the state run power generating and distribution system. CESP and ELECTROPAULO generate 95% of the electricity in Sao Paulo using hydroelectric dam/turbine/ generator systems.

6. The water, after going through the turbines at the Borden Plant, is used by the numerous chemical/industrial companies in Cubatao (like Union Carbide). The water is used in various processes and as cooling water. This water is the only large source of fresh water on the narrow coastal plain. Much of this water, especially in the 1960-1980 time span, was heavily polluted along with the air due to unregulated discharges from the various industries in Cubatao.

Home   Gallery

I. Industrial Waste Water - The Brahma Brewing Company

The tour of this plant, in Jaguari, emphasized the treatment of the water and wastewater for the production of a variety of Brahma Beers. The flow of 0.5 cubic meters of raw intake water comes from the Jaguari Reservoir. The water is treated very similarly to regular drinking water with the use of alum to cause coagulation and flocculation. This is followed by sedimentation of the floc and finally, filtration. The water is then stored with some chlorine to prevent bacterial growth in the water. Most of this treated water is then used to make the various types of beer. The spent (used) barley and hops (solid wastes) is dried and sold as cattle food to local farmers. The wastewater generated in the plant is treated in their own wastewater plant using an anaerobic primary treatment system followed by an aerobic Carousel secondary activated sludge system. The settled sludge from secondary settling is dewatered in a belt press and used as a soil conditioner by local farmers. Samples of various beers were sampled by the students and judged to be excellent!

Home   Gallery

Please direct all comments, suggestions, and queries about this page to CE-Webmaster

Civil Engineering History Homepage