We recently spent three weeks in the sultry warmth of Celina’s home city, Rio de Janeiro, a visit memorable for two things. Firstly the torrential summer rain that fell during the majority of days we were there (Note 1) and, secondly, the state of the City’s tap water.
Pedra da Gavea shrouded in rain-clouds
It had been the same last year. You may recall PC 145 about the tropical storm with extreme winds and torrential rain that caused havoc across Rio last February? The City’s engineers have yet to come up with a permanent solution to the landslips that closed the Niemeyer Road from Leblon to Säo Conrado and threatened the Vidigal favela, where houses cling precariously to the steep side of the Dois Irmaes Mountain. The road remains closed and the traffic forced into the only other thoroughfare, the tunnel under the mountain.
A large wall behind Celina’s family home, knocked over by the sheer force of the rainwater, is only now being rebuilt and the road into the condominium has yet to have proper drainage pipes, so is still susceptible to heavy rainfall.
Huge granite edging stones lifted by the torrents of water
This year we were hoping for a drier time but I don’t think William Shakespeare would have written, in 2020: ‘The quality of mercy is not strain’d. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath’ (Note 2)!! There is nothing gentle about tropical rain; it’s sometimes like water gushing from a shower head ….. but you’re not in control of the tap! While we were in Rio, Säo Paulo had an even bigger deluge and flooding occurred across the city. The local paper had diagrams showing how the incidents of heavier rainfall, in some cases twice historical levels, have increased this century.
Cleaning up Rio’s water and sewage system was supposed to be part of the 2016 Olympics legacy, but as so often happens in Brazil the allocated money disappeared, drained away one could say! Four years on and the tap water has a strange taste said to be caused by an organic compound called Geosmin. The city’s publicly-owned water company insists the water is safe to drink, but the city’s 6.7 million people beg to differ. For those who can afford it, buying bottled water is the preferred option; those too poor suffer – as always! Fortunately the tap water in Celina’s mother’s house in the Iposeria Condominium is drawn from an underground cistern filled with rainwater straight off the slopes of Pedra da Gavea and is safe! Personally I love ‘tap water’ but in the UK we seem to be wedded to buying bottled water!
I am never sure why but some things you hear during the course of your existence stay with you ……. echoing down the decades ….. coming to the surface at odd moments. I never read Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ but somehow the line ‘Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink’ got ingrained in my memory. Scribbling about water ….. and it bubbled to the surface ……. and now it reminds me of that crossing of the Atlantic (PC 161) in the Services yacht Sabre. The fresh water tanks provided some 1000 litres – but for a crew of 12 for a three week trip this is only some 4 litres per person per day …. and this included that needed for cooking and teeth cleaning. A small exception was made if you wanted a splash of water in your sundown whisky! Surrounded by water and none of it drinkable!!
Here in Hove the council updated a pedestrian crossing with studded paving slabs to help the visual impaired and improved wheelchair access. Unfortunately the improvements weren’t well designed and when it rains the PedX (as Kiwis tend to call them!) is one big puddle.
Interestingly the council blame staff shortages and having to spend the money by a certain date!! (Note 3) But remedial work is due this month – at more cost! In the course of an email exchange with the responsible department, the subject of our drainage system came up. The Victorian sewers and drains quickly reach capacity in these increasing periods of heavier rainfall. Acknowledging the out-of-this-world expense of replacing these across the country, maybe there is a need to have ‘monsoon’ type roadside culverts to cope with future downfalls?
In the UK last month Storm Dennis followed Storm Ciara and deposited 158mm (6.2 inches) in 48 hours, caused by a weather bomb – for those of you who appreciate the science, the barometric pressure dropped 50mbars in 24 hours. In a rather perverse way there is a tendency to claim your dry/wet/cold/hot spell has been worse than someone else’s …….. but this is what 158mm of rain would look like ……..
……. it’s an enormous amount and here in the UK it fell on saturated ground …… the rivers overflowed and the land flooded.
This the flooded village of Severn Stoke in Worcestershire (Note 4)
So was this February’s rainfall unusual for the UK? Well, here are the figures:
And as Paul Simons, The Times’ weather expert says: “The behaviour of the Atlantic and our weather varies over the years and decades, and trying to tease out the natural fluctuations from any influence of man-made climate change is challenging. What is clear is that climate change is expected to lead to more rainfall in the UK, making flooding more likely.”
As we move into March properly I hope that February 2020 remains simply a soggy memory:
Richard 5th March 2020 ( a very wet day in Hove!)
Note 1 It has continued to rain in Rio virtually every day since we left in mid February – God ignoring Barbra Streisand’s plea in her song “Don’t Rain on my (Carnival) Parade”!
Note 2 The Merchant of Venice Act IV Scene 1
Note 3 Very simplistic but …. HM Treasury money allocated to public bodies often needs to be spent within the Financial Year. If it’s not spent, the treasury believes it wasn’t needed enough and reduce the following year’s tranche. For instance, in the Armed Forces this often resulted in the unnecessary redecoration of Married Quarters – just to spend the money. There must be a better way of managing Public Finances?
Note 4 After the flood water has receded, houses need to be completely disinfected, as ‘flood water’ carries every imaginable bacteria …. and some! Poor people!