Date of Award

Winter 2010

Project Type


Program or Major

Natural Resources and Environmental Studies

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Mimi Larsen Becker


In its 2,700 kilometers north and then eastern journey to the Atlantic Ocean, the Sao Francisco River of Brazil drains eight percent of the nation's territory. The watershed is three and a half times the size of New England. This research investigates the impacts of the federal water resource management, or lack of it, on the riverine environment and on the life of the people who locally have depended on the ecosystem's services of the river during the 1940s--2008 timeframe. A new legal instrument, the 1997 Water Policy, introduced a novel form of management regarding public participation, policy goals and ways of achieving them. The new policy mandates participation of multiple stakeholders' groups in the governance of the water resources of Brazil bounded by natural over political jurisdictions. Nevertheless, the participation of the Sao Francisco River Basin Committee in the final outcomes of the management of the water body is still limited. This doctoral dissertation applied the Policy Sciences Analytic Framework, a tool for policy investigations, to map the problem and the decision and social processes. Ecological Sustainability and Ecosystem Approach are the theoretical components and criteria of analysis. This multi-method study is based upon qualitative field-based empirical and library research, a critical assessment of secondary literature, interviews and field observations. In the Sao Francisco River Basin, environmental and social costs have risen as development increased. The uses of the river have shifted from the local in the pre-1950s to the regional and international in the post-1950s era. The intensive employment of the water body for entrepreneurial purposes like hydro-businesses is rising. The 1997 Water Policy has not yet reversed the unsustainable ecological trend of the river system, which shows various indicators of stress. This dissertation written as a case study presents results based upon seven municipalities of the basin (Pirapora, Bom Jesus da Lapa, Juazeiro, Petrolina, Penedo, Santana do Sao Francisco and Brejo Grande).