A river basin as a common-pool resource: A case study for the Jaguaribe basin in Brasil

P.R. van Oel, Martinus S. Krol, Arjen Ysbert Hoekstra

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Rainfall variability and the associated water stress are of major concern in semi-arid regions subject to conflicts between water users. To achieve sustainable and stable agricultural performance it is necessary to understand the interaction between natural processes and human response. This paper investigates the applicability of common-pool resource (CPR) concepts to understand governance of water resources in semi-arid river basins. This is done by evaluating the governance of water resources in the Jaguaribe basin in the semi-arid Northeast of Brazil. The results show that common-pool resource concepts offer valuable insights for explaining variations in water resource use and availability at the river basin scale. The water system in a river basin can be characterized as one large CPR consisting of asymmetrically linked smaller CPR’s. This study showed that CPR concepts are useful for explaining agricultural productivity, stability and equitability in a semi-arid river basin. The asymmetry of a river basin CPR is the cause of unidirectional externalities towards downstream. The topography, the sequence of rainfall events and distribution of reservoir capacities in a river basin strongly influence the extent to which convergence of resource flow can compensate for these externalities.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationDelft, The Netherlands
PublisherUnesco-IHE Institute for Water Education
Number of pages33
Publication statusPublished - 2007

Publication series

NameValue of water research report series 24
PublisherUNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education


  • METIS-240719
  • IR-58368


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