<p><em><strong>This gallery is part of a <a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/clean_water_crisis.html">special news series</a> on the <a href="http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater/">global water crisis</a>.</strong></em></p><p>Toxic foam chokes <a id="hncv" title="Brazil" href="http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/countries/brazil-guide/?source=A-to-Z">Brazil</a>'s most polluted waterway, the Tietê River, on September 4 in the town of <a id="gz4l" title="Pirapora de Bom Jesus (see map)." href="http://maps.nationalgeographic.com/maps/map-machine#s=r&amp;c=-23.399998887820974, -46.99999988079071&amp;z=8">Pirapora do Bom Jesus (map)</a>.</p><p>The foam is caused mostly by untreated household runoff&nbsp;from nearby São Paulo, the biggest city in Brazil, according to&nbsp;Malu Ribeiro, water-program coordinator for the local environmental nonprofit <a id="rvgl" title="SOS Mata Atlântica" href="http://www.sosmatatlantica.org.br/">SOS Mata Atlântica</a>. The runoff flows directly into the river via waste pipes, she added.</p><p>The organization has tracked the <a id="kwhz" title="river" href="http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater/rivers/">river</a>'s water quality since 1993, a few years after foam pollution was first detected. (<a id="v-de" title="How much do you know about the world's fresh water?" href="http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater">How much do you know about the world's fresh water?</a>)</p><p>The foam forms when water mixes with phosphate and phosphorus—ingredients found in products such as biodegradable detergents, Ribeiro said.</p><p>The phenomenon occurs in Brazil's June-to-August dry season, when lowered water levels make the pollutants more concentrated.</p><p>A severe drought made the foam especially abundant this past August, the driest month in Brazil since 1943, according to the country's <a id="hc4-" title="National Institute of Meteorology." href="http://www.inmet.gov.br/">National Institute of Meteorology</a>.</p><p>Elsewhere in Brazil, arid conditions have also left the Amazon River at its lowest level in 47 years, according to the Agence France-Press news service.</p><p><em>—Sabrina Valle in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil</em></p>

Open Sewer

This gallery is part of a special news series on the global water crisis.

Toxic foam chokes Brazil's most polluted waterway, the Tietê River, on September 4 in the town of Pirapora do Bom Jesus (map).

The foam is caused mostly by untreated household runoff from nearby São Paulo, the biggest city in Brazil, according to Malu Ribeiro, water-program coordinator for the local environmental nonprofit SOS Mata Atlântica. The runoff flows directly into the river via waste pipes, she added.

The organization has tracked the river's water quality since 1993, a few years after foam pollution was first detected. (How much do you know about the world's fresh water?)

The foam forms when water mixes with phosphate and phosphorus—ingredients found in products such as biodegradable detergents, Ribeiro said.

The phenomenon occurs in Brazil's June-to-August dry season, when lowered water levels make the pollutants more concentrated.

A severe drought made the foam especially abundant this past August, the driest month in Brazil since 1943, according to the country's National Institute of Meteorology.

Elsewhere in Brazil, arid conditions have also left the Amazon River at its lowest level in 47 years, according to the Agence France-Press news service.

—Sabrina Valle in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Photograph by Alexandre Carvalho, FotoArena/Getty Images

Pictures: Toxic Foam Chokes Brazil River

An outbreak of toxic foam pollution in Brazil's Tietê River has been made worse by the driest August in decades, experts say.

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