Most of the investments in water and waste projects in Brazil are still concentrated in relatively few cities, showing the major challenges that the country faces to guarantee 100% coverage.
The 27 state capitals, including Brasília, saw total investment in the segment of 28.9bn reais (US$5.5bn) between 2017 and 2021, according to a study produced by think tank Instituto Trata Brasil in partnership with consultancy GO Associados.
São Paulo, the country’s largest city, saw investments in water and waste projects totaling nearly 13bn reais in the period, followed by Brasília with 1.8bn reais and Rio de Janeiro with 1.2bn reais.
However, this scenario is likely to change in the coming years, with cities with low levels of investment gaining ground.
“We have a group of cities in Brazil that have already invested a lot in recent years and established robust water and sewage infrastructure. These cities have gone through a major investment cycle, so looking forward, they don’t have such a great need for new investments,” Pedro Scazufca, a partner at GO Associados and an expert in the segment, told BNamericas.
“The trend is that cities that have had low investment levels in recent years will start to play a greater role in investment,” he added, underlining that cities with projects already structured are likely to be in the spotlight, including Rio de Janeiro, Maceió and Macapá.
The water and sanitation sector in Brazil has undergone a transformation since the mid-2020s, when a new regulation facilitated the entrance of private sector companies in the segment that was previously dominated by state-owned firms.
The regulatory changes were accompanied by an effort to increase the coverage of water and sewage services nationwide, forcing all states to achieve 100% coverage by 2033. However, with the current level of investment, that goal represents a major challenge.
According to the study, to reach full coverage investments per capita need to reach 203.51 reais a year, whereas they averaged just 113.47 reais between 2017 and 2021.
Of the 27 capitals, the study shows only nine have 99% potable water services. Although the average level of coverage in capitals is 94.80%, there are state capitals in the north with indicators close to or below 50%, such as Rio Branco (60.73%), Macapá (36.60%) and Porto Velho (26.05%).
Regarding sewage collection, the report says only eight state capitals have service for more than 90% of the population, with some in the north below or close to 20%, such as Rio Branco (22.67%), Belém (17.12%), Macapá (10.55%) and Porto Velho (5.80%).