Water resources development in the Sao Francisco River Basin (Brazil): Conflicts and management perspectives

A A R Ioris

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23 Citations (Scopus)


Water scarcity is matter of growing concern in Brazil, especially in the semi-arid, inland area of the Northeast, where the Sao Francisco River flows. This paper concentrates on the relations between the concrete experience of water resources development and the remaining demands for efficient water management in that river basin. The emphasis is on its Sub-Middle section, which since 1948 has been the preferential area for irrigation projects and hydropower generation. Recent modifications in the Brazilian legislation provide for a new approach to water resources policy, which is in favor of more decentralized and proactive forms of water management, In spite of such institutional evolution, conservative political groups in the Sao Francisco River Basin have put obstacles before the transformation of established practices. In addition, there are other structural limitations contributing to hinder the adoption of a more comprehensive framework of water management. Resulting water conflicts have raised increasing demands for proper attention to the social, economic and environmental requirements of the sustainable management of water. The requisites for that go beyond the water question itself because they involve broader political and socio-economic controversies. At the local level, priority must be given to measures aimed at achieving water efficiency and conservation. It is fundamental to address the reduction of human vulnerability to climatic risks and to adopt alternatives of better utilization of water resources.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-39
Number of pages16
JournalWater International
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • Brazilian Northeast
  • Sao Francisco River
  • water development
  • irrigation
  • hydropower


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