Paraíba do Sul (Brazil)

Water Users/ Stakeholders

Water Legislation

The Water Code of 1934 marks the first legislative document on water resources. The code was a centralized model, emphasizing on the primary utilization of water for the purpose of energy generation (Vasconcelos, 2006). However, the unilateral focus of the Water Code on the energy sector couldn´t advert the ever-growing water stress and enduring water conflicts during the transformation process of Brazil to an industrialized country.

A new decentralized and more participative water jurisdiction was adopted in Article 21 of the Federal Constitution in 1988. Thereafter, it is the responsibility of the Union to define directives and principles for water resources management (Marques & Simões, 2010). On the other hand the federal states are responsible to establish water resources management systems within their boundaries. There is a distinction between federally controlled and state-controlled water. If a river is flowing entirely within one state, it belongs to state-controlled water; however if a river streams through more than one state, it belongs to federal (government) controlled water (Kelmann & Porto, 2000). The latter case applies to the main stream and some tributaries of the PDS river basin. The following figure illustrates the distinction between federally controlled and state-controlled waters in the PDS.


Another milestone in Brazils water legislation is the National Water Act, adopted in 1997. The act defines the Natural Water Resources Policy (NWRP) as well as the National Water Resources Management System (NWRMS). The latter sets the frame for institutional arrangements under which the policy is implemented (Kelmann & Porto, 2000). The policy aims at sustainability, integrated management and safety. The principles and tools to achieve such objectives are listed in the table. In 2000, and under the Federal Law No. 9984, the implementation and operationalization of the NWRP and NWRMS was assigned to the National Water Agency (ANA) (Veiga & Magrini, 2013). Furthermore, the following institutions comprise the National Water Resources Management System:  National Water Resources Council, State Water Resources Councils, the Agencies at the federal and State levels, the River Basin Committees and the River Basin Agencies (Kelmann & Porto, 2000). In the case of the Paraíba do Sul, CEIVAP is the responsible river committee and AGEVAP is the responsible water agency. 


Basic Principles

1 water is a public good
2 water is a finite resource and has an economic value
the use of water required to meet people´s basic need shall have priority, specially in critical periods
4 water management shall comprise and induce multiple uses
5 the river basin is the appropriate unit for water management
6 water management shall be decentralized, with the participation of government, stakeholders and society

Basic Tools

1 water resources plans
classification of water bodies in different classes of use, resulting water quality
3 permit system for withdrawal or use of water
5 water resources information system


Problem analysis and challenges 

At present, there are severe problems regarding the land and water resources within the PDS basin. Each economic sector is using a great portion of the Paraíba do Sul waters. Every day, around 5 million cubic metre of water are extracted for human consumption, of which 50 per cent are used by the industrial sector (Garcia, 2012). However, low wastewater collections and treatment rates, mining activities, solid waste disposals as well as sedimentation processes are the main reasons for the deteriorating water quality in the PDS (Souza, 2004). Sedimentation processes are mainly caused by exposed soils as a result of intensive deforestation for pasture areas. Critical water quality parameters have a direct impact on the secure provision of water quantity in rural and urban areas where water treatment facilities are not installed yet. To prevent extensive diseases in the Metropolitan Area of Rio de Janeiro, the largest water treatment plant in the world has been installed in the Guandu River (Brito et al., 2005). On the contrary, water quality deterioration can lead to soil contamination and diseases among livestock, comprising economical losses for the farmers. The on-going degradation of forests and pasture areas also impair economical income. Population increase causes additional stress on pasture areas as well as energy and water demands.

The diversion of large water quantities for the Metropolitan Area of Rio de Janeiro is likely to cause conflicts with downstream municipalities. A lower flow downstream induces a drop in water quality, which in return affects the water supply in urban areas due to the expansion of toxic algae (Serricchio, 2005). This effect is strengthened in times of drought.

In 2014, a severe dry period resulted in the depletion of the dam’s reservoirs following a competition for water between the states of Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. The conflict arose when the government of São Paulo decided to reduce the water release of the upper dams, transferring large quantities of water from the Jaguari River (a tributary of the PDS) out of the basin to supply the metropolitan area of São Paulo (Jacobina & Advogados, 2014). The unilateral decision caused additional water stress downstream, threatening water supply and economic activities downstream. Even though the major stream is classified as an interstate river (belonging to federal waters), the Jaguari tributary is located entirely within the state of São Paulo, thus belonging to state waters. The different concepts of state-controlled and federal-controlled waters hamper effective water management since federally controlled rivers cannot be adequately managed without the control over state-controlled tributaries.

The response of the river system to growing water demands and natural hazards is rarely understood. There is a lack of information on the effects of upstream decisions for downstream municipalities. It is uncertain how the complex situation in the PDS basin will further evolve in times of growing population pressure and climate change. 

In order to avoid a collapse of the PDS river basin, a variety of measure need to be undertaken. Such measures should include the extension of wastewater collection and treatment plants, reforestation programs on degraded pasturelands, slope stabilization, biodiversity corridors, extension of water quality and water quantity measurement stations and an improved communication between state governments for better management during extreme events. The proper management of the PDS basin is crucial for the economy of Brazil.


References and further reading:

Brito, E. M. S., Vieira, E. D. R., Torres, J. P. M., Malm, O. (2014) Persistent organic pollutants in two reservoirs along the Paraíba do Sul-Guandu River system, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil,, accessed: 04.12.2014.

Garcia, A. C., Napoleão, D. A. S., Siqueira, A. F., Filho, H. J. I. (2012) Water Monitoring of Paraíba do Sul River in the City of Lorena – SP, Brazil,, accessed: 29.11.2014.

Jacobina, D., Advogados, G. (2014) Dispute on water supply: a federal crisis. Introduction
Comment,, accessed: 12.11.2014.

Kelmann, J., Porto, M. (2000) Water Resources Policy in Brazil, Rivers – Studies in the Science Environmental Policy and Law of Instream Flow, 7(3), 2000.

Marques, R. C., Simões, S.  (2010) Regulation of Water and Wastewater Services: An International Comparison. IWA Publishing Alliance House.

Serricchio, C., Calaes, V., Formiga-Johnsson, R. M., Lima, A. J. R., Andrade, E. P. (2005) O CEIVAP e a gestão integrada dos recursos hídricos da Bacia do Rio Paraíba do Sul. Um relato da prática, CEF, Rio de Janeiro.

Souza, D. I. (2004) A Degradacão da Bacia do Rio Paraíba do Sul,, accessed: 04.12.2014.

Vasconcelos, M. (2006) Brazil Water Resources Management: Evolution and Challenges,, accessed: 18.11.2014.

Vegra, L. B. E., Magrini, A. (2013) The Brazilian Water Resources Management Policy: Fifteen Years of Success and Challenges, Water Resource Management (2013) 27:2287–2302 DOI 10.1007/s11269-013-0288-1.  

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