Severe Drought Hits South America

HERNANDARIAS, Paraguay—Most years, when rains are normal, four Olympic swimming pools worth of water passes each second through the mammoth Itaipú Dam, churning out electricity for both Paraguay and Brazil and allowing ships and barges to export grains as far away as China.

Since 2019, however, rainfall levels have dropped sharply—not just here, but in much of the heart of South America—and left a vast swath baking in drought. Dozens of hydroelectric dams in Brazil have sputtered, driving up energy prices there. And the river transport of soybeans, the regional cash cow, has been severely hampered in the grain hub of Rosario, Argentina.

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