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Public Policies, Social Learning And Water Resources

Congress: 2015

Keyword(s): Sub-theme 10: Management of water resources,


The watershed management gains importance in Brazil, as the effects of environmental degradation affect the availability of water resources. Legal, political and institutional changes were promoted with the establishment of democratic public spaces that allow greater inclusion of civil society in the management of water resources, through watershed committees, which consider the complex processes of negotiation and resolution of various conflicts.

These changes pave the way for the increase in the potential of strengthening dialogue spaces of social learning and the exercise of participatory democracy, mediating experiences of different subjects authors / local social actors in the formulation of collaborative projects.

The aim of this article is to discuss participatory water management, focusing on the Policy on Water Resources of the State of São Paulo, and its relation to social learning.


The main research method was a literature review pertaining to the subject material, together with a brief critical analysis on the Policy on Water Resources of the State of São Paulo .

Results and Discussion

In general, it is in big cities that water resources management issues become more complex. The growth of these cities, the rate of demographic expansion, accented aspects of poverty and the negative effects derived from the concentration of relevant industrial parks have led to a number of quite distinctive problems, including environmental degradation, which jeopardizes quantitatively and qualitatively the water availability per capita.

In Brazil, this context is very present in the State of São Paulo. From the 1980s, a favorable context for water management was formed, with the development of new legislation and institutional bodies in an attempt to handle the complexity of natural, social and economic phenomena around the use of water resources . These laws have decentralized participatory management as a principle, through the Watershed Committees.

The existence of Watershed Committees establishes a change in the relationship between state and civil society, which begins to articulate a greater number of actors in the decision process. This collective decisions sets into potential strategies that encompass a set of actors and practices surrounding the negotiation and conflict mediation.

The process of social learning aims to help clarify the goals of all stakeholders involved in the process; achieve better and more democratic solutions to the socio-environmental issues and better ways to manage conflict. The social learning in the watersheds refers to a set of actions that encourage people to change their practices, managing more sustainable environmental processes, both socially and economically. It also combines information and knowledge as well as training, motivation and stimuli for changing attitudes.

It is observed that is not an easy task to understand certain technical issues for decision making. Understanding a problem is the premise for actors to begin sharing their understandings, exploring the possibilities of prospects for intervention. Convincing leaderships to participate and facilitate are key aspects for building and maintaining the commitment, directly or indirectly, in water management stakeholders.

There is an important challenge to transform the management of public administration in the states and municipalities, opening a space for dialogue and expanding much greater degree of responsibility of social groups that have always had a small role in shared management.

The dynamics of the Watershed Committees facilitates transparency and permeability in relations between the community, businesses and non-governmental organizations - NGOs; also seeks to incorporate key stakeholders in the process and create a formal channel of citizen participation. Thus, it appears as a space of articulation, negotiation and discussion of problems, and opens up space for the expression and defense of common interests. The impacts of participatory practices in the management of water resources lead to a new quality of citizenship, establishing citizen as creator of rights to open new spaces of socio-political participation.

The challenge is that these spaces become actually public, expanding a commitment to environmental problems, and its translation into effective action in an organized and informed population, prepared to learn, understand and claim their rights and also to exercise their responsibility. This is important to the extent that the State will need, increasingly, to give answers through sustainable development policies, enhancing the principles of participation in decentralized and shared management of water resources.


The main purpose of a social learning process is to invest in cooperative work, promoting community involvement and dialogue among the actors involved in the management of water resources. The focus is not only on the learning of the actors, but also in how they deal with each other and their interdependencies, each recognizing the strategies of others and seeking a synergistic trading field.

Appropriate negotiation and intervention strategies applied to learning allow to explore and discuss the scenarios for construction of agreements on water management. The key is to devise strategies that institutionalize learning management processes and interaction between actors through negotiation. This assumes an exchange of experiences among stakeholders who have different perspectives on issues whose resolutions require cooperation between different types of actors and not individual decisions.

The challenge is to learn to manage and make decisions together in order to facilitate qualitative changes in the management of water resources through participatory and shared management exerted on Watershed Committees in the State of São Paulo. 1. CAMPOS, V. N. O. 2009. Estruturação e implementação da gestão compartilhada das águas: o comitê de bacia hidrográfica do Alto Tietê. In: JACOBI, P. R. (Org.). Atores e processos na governança da água no estado de São Paulo. São Paulo: Annablume. 2. CRAPS, m. and MAUREL, P. (eds) 2003. Social Learning Pool of Questions. An instrument to diagnose Social Learning and IC-tools in European River Basin Management. Combined WP2/WP3 report of the HarmoniCOP Project. 65p. 3. FRACALANZA, A.P. 2002. Conflitos na Apropriação da Água na Região Metropolitana de São Paulo. Tese de Doutorado (Geografia). Presidente Prudente: UNESP, Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia. 217p. 4. HARMONICOP. 2003 a. Public participation and the European Water Framework directive. Role of Information and Communication Tools. Work Package 3 report of the HarmoniCOP Project. P. Maurel, ed. K. U. Leuven – Centre for Organizational and Personnel Psychology. 5. JACOBI et al. 2002. Capital social e desempenho institucional: reflexões teórico-metodológicas sobre estudos no Comitê de Bacia Hidrográfica do Alto Tietê – São Paulo. ANPPAS. 6. MAGALHAES JUNIOR, A. P. 2007. Indicadores Ambientais e Recursos Hídricos. Rio de Janeiro: Bertrand Brasil. 7. PAHL-WOSTL, C.; CRAPS, M.; DEWULF, A.; MOSTERT, E.; TÁBARA, D.; and TAILLIEU, T. 2007. Social learning and water resources management. Ecology and Society 12(2); 5. [online] URL: 8. RAIMUNDO, S.; FRACALANZA, A. P. 2008. Conflitos no uso dos recursos hídricos e na gestão das águas: uma proposta metodológica de análise. Olam – Ciência & Tecnologia, Rio Claro, v. 8, p. 338-367. 9. RIBEIRO, W.C. Impasses da governança da água no Brasil. In: RIBEIRO, W. C. (Org.) Governança da água no Brasil: uma visão interdisciplinar. São Paulo: Annablume; FAPESP; CNPq, 2009. p.135-53. 10. SÃO PAULO (Estado), Secretaria de Saneamento e Recursos Hídricos. 2011. Guia do sistema paulista de recursos hídricos: comitês de bacias: CRH, COFEHIDRO, CORHI / Secretaria de Saneamento e Recursos Hídricos; coordenação Saulo Ribeiro Martins, Flávia Braga Rodrigues; equipe técnica Nilceia Franchi [et al.]. São Paulo: SSRH. 11. WARNER, J. 2007. Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management. Aldershot: Ashgate.

2011 IWRA - International Water Resources Association - - Admin