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Climate and Change in Brazilian Water Management: A Case Study of Governance and Adaptive Capacity

By Owen Johns


To address the growing stressors on freshwater resources, efforts to improve water management have included institutional and governance reforms, rearranging our social interaction with the environment. Some tenets of the reforms touted by international organizations and academics include integration of actors in management, participation of official stakeholders and civil society, deliberation and conflict management. Improving institutional capacity and governance are also highlighted as important components to foster adaptive capacity to climate change, that is, the ability to respond and recover to impacts in a manner that mitigates damage and takes advantage of opportunities. Yet, the literature includes relatively few studies of the specific governance factors that contribute to adaptive capacity. This study looks at the role of governance in Brazilian water management reform through an analysis of four basin-level case studies: the Paraíba do Sul, Lagos São João, Itajaí and Lower Jaguaribe. The Brazilian reform established basin-level committees to promote participatory management by public agencies, water users and civil society. This study investigates the variable success in the implementation of the reform and the effect of these governance changes on response to specific climate events. Findings show that governance indeed plays a role in promoting adaptive capacity. Furthermore, this analysis shows how financial and physical resources are inherently important to enable effective governance, and that critical components include integration, knowledge, democratic participation and conflict management. However, the reform has not improved adaptive capacity in all cases, in part due to governance failures, but also due the neglect of the committees to include disaster relief agencies and incorporate flood planning into their activities. In addition, a greater integration of complementary development issues, namely urban land managemen

Topics: Adaptive Capacity, Water Management, Governance, Brazil
Year: 2011
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