How do basin committees deal with water crises. Reflections for adaptive water governance from South America

Publicado en Ecology and Society ( IF 4.653 )

Micaela Trimble, Tomás Olivier, Lidiane Anjos, Natalia Dias Tadeu, Gabriel Giordano, Lara Mac Donnell, Rosana Laura, Franco Salvadores, Igor Santana-Chaves, Pedro Torres, Miguel Pascual, Pedro Jacobi, Néstor Mazzeo, Cristina Zurbriggen, Lydia Garrido, Esteban Jobbágy, Claudia Pahl-Wostl

Año de publicación 2022
  • South American Institute for Resilience and Sustainability Studies (SARAS), Uruguay,
  • School of Public Administration, Florida Atlantic University, USA,
  • Federal University of ABC (UFABC), Brazil,
  • Faculty of Social Sciences-UDELAR, Uruguay,
  • National Technological University (UTN), Master in Territorial Development, Argentina,
  • Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaria (INTA), Argentina,
  • Institute of Energy and Environment, University of São Paulo, Brazil,
  • Instituto Patagónico para el Estudio de los Ecosistemas Continentales (IPEEC), CCTCONICET- CENPAT, Argentina,
  • Centro Universitario Regional del Este, Universidad de la República, Uruguay,
  • UNESCO Chair in Sociocultural Anticipation and Resilience,
  • Grupo de Estudios Ambientales, IMASL - CONICET and Universidad Nacional de San Luis, Argentina,
  • Instituteof Environmental Systems Research, Osnabrück University, Germany,
  • Institute of Geography, Osnabrück University, Germany
  • the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI): SGP-HW 056.
  • the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP), grant numbers 2015/03804-9 and 2018/06685-9,
Proyecto SGP-HW 056.
PDFHow do basin committees deal with water crises Reflections for adaptive water governance from South America.pdf


Adaptive water governance involves collaboration among multiple actors, social learning, and flexibility to deal with shocks and surprises. Crises thus become a useful context to assess how the institutional arrangements contribute to adaptation. However, an important part of the specialized literature has focused on these issues as they occur in highly institutionalized settings in the Global North. This paper, instead, analyzes basin organizations in settings with variable degrees of institutionalization in South America. The objective is to analyze the actions (or lack thereof) conducted or encouraged by basin committees in watersheds of Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay, in the face of water crises. We analyze three case studies, involving basin committees that faced different water crises (all affecting drinking water supply) at different scales: (1) Chubut River Basin committee and a turbidity crisis in the Lower Valley in 2017 (Chubut, Argentina), (2) Piracicaba-Capivari-Jundiaí (PCJ) River Basins committee and a drought that occurred in 2014&ndash2015 (São Paulo, Brazil), and (3) Laguna del Cisne Basin commission and a crisis associated with a failure in the water treatment operation in 2019 (Canelones, Uruguay). In each case, we analyze the institutional design of the committee and the actions (or lack thereof) undertaken regarding the crisis, including the perceptions of key stakeholders of those actions. Findings showed that stakeholders tend to act and communicate through fast channels when water crises occur, referring to basin committees only for technical and additional support (Brazil), information sharing (Uruguay), or not convening the committee at all (Argentina). Our cases in South American countries with different contexts provided empirical evidence of the barriers that basin committees face as political&ndashinstitutional frameworks to foster adaptive water governance (e.g., limited stability, centralization, lack of leadership).