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Managing Waters of the Paraíba do Sul River Basin, Brazil: a Case Study in Institutional Change and Social Learning

Lori M. Kumler, School of Natural Resources & Environment, University of Michigan
Maria Carmen Lemos, University of Michigan

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This article examines the implementation of integrated water-management institutions in the Paraíba do Sul River basin in southeast Brazil. It argues that social learning has been critical in facilitating reform implementation so far, and will likely continue to be an important factor for the future sustainability of the new management system. There has been a synergistic relationship between social learning and Brazil’s water-reform hybrid governance institutions, in which social learning facilitated the implementation of the reform’s new institutions, which in turn enabled further learning in the context of the river basin committee’s decision-making process. Through interviews, surveys, and observations, we identified social-learning capacities, including trust, an ability to work together, and the committee’s shared understanding of the institution’s problems, possibilities, and mission. Effective management through social learning was demonstrated by the institution’s adaptive capacity in the face of a severe drought.

Key words

Brazil; CEIVAP; institutional adaptation; river basin management; social learning; water policy
Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087