From Fluvial City To Hydro-Metropolis: Water, Sanitation, and Metropolitan Environment In São Paulo, Brazil (1850-1975)
McRae, Douglas Vaughan
McCann, Bryan D
This dissertation argues that since the mid-19th century, the transformation of São Paulo from provincial commercial town into megalopolis depended on remaking its relationship with water supply and the ways water flowed in and out of the urban sphere. Whereas previously the regional hydrography had limited the city’s prospects, by the mid-19th century Paulistanos began to intervene at multiple levels in the remaking of the fluvial environment for the benefit of their city. The remaking of the relationship between the city and its metropolitan environment was crucial in the growth of São Paulo into one of the largest urban conglomerations in the Americas.The development of a networked system water supply system and the construction of a hydroelectrical complex for the city altered longstanding relations between humans and waterways on the Paulista Plateau. This dissertation demonstrates the ways that public authorities, engineers, urbanists, and ordinary residents contributed to the making of São Paulo’s waterscape. Piped supply and distribution networks, sewer systems, treatment facilities, artificial reservoirs and other infrastructural elements came to define the city’s sprawling waterscape and shape its metropolitan character. These efforts amounted to a re-founding of the city as a “hydro-metropolis,” one that could dominate water flows in the region but still remain vulnerable to drought, flooding, and waterborne pollution. This dissertation contributes to understandings of Brazilian urban history and environmental histories of Latin America by highlighting the expansion of water and related infrastructure as constitutive of a distinct urban environment, emerging across the Americas during the same period. São Paulo serves as a case study for thinking about the roots of contemporary water crises in global megacities and the ways that cities that grew rapidly during the past century have confronted challenges to maintaining their respective waterscapes.
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