Water transfer canals in Brazil

We recently came across this story about a water transfer project in Brazil. Since we have previously had a look at China’s North-South water transfer project, we thought it might be interesting to have a look at Brazil’s project in Google Earth. It was difficult to find the location, but we eventually found this Wikipedia page that has a map. We have since located and traced out the canals that have been built so far. In many places there is no recent imagery and their route can only be seen in the latest Landsat/Sentinel global mosaic in ‘historical imagery’.

The Brazil water transfer project consists of two separate canals carrying water from the São Francisco River to the four north-eastern states of Brazil. There are several dams along the route of the canal which have been specially constructed as part of the project. The two main canals are each around 200 km long. There are also tunnels under roads, bridges over valleys and in one place an 18 km tunnel through a hill. The project has reportedly cost around US$ 2.5 billion so far. The region the water is serving is known as Sertão and is a naturally arid region.

The canal routes. Red: canals. Blue: river bed. Yellow: possible future extension.

Keep in mind that once the water is transported via the canals, it flows into the local rivers and can be utilised by towns downstream of the end of the canal all the way to the coast.

A tunnel under a village.

One of the many dams.


Play ‘spot the difference’. 2001 vs 2016. If you know where to look you can spot both canals. See map above for clues.

To find the canals in Google Earth download this KML file.

About Timothy Whitehead

Timothy has been using Google Earth since 2004 when it was still called Keyhole before it was renamed Google Earth in 2005 and has been a huge fan ever since. He is a programmer working for Red Wing Aerobatx and lives in Cape Town, South Africa.

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