Ethics Of Water Legislation In Brazil

Written by: Ansley Nash

As climate change causes rising temperatures and changes in rainfall across the planet, University of Georgia researchers are shedding light on the differing values of populations in Northeastern Brazil to inform future water management decisions.

Dr. Donald Nelson, Associate Professor in the Anthropology Department is collaborating with a team of interdisciplinary researchers from the Federal University of Ceará in northeast Brazil, exploring how global climate change may impact future water resource management in the region. 

The biggest concern is water availability and the impacts of drought on human populations and climate systems. This multifaceted problem may be exacerbated by multiple shifts in weather patterns caused by climate change. 

Water shortages will impact the livelihoods of a significant population of over 5 million people, include agriculturalists, large scale manufacturers and land in northeast Brazil that belongs to one of the indigenous peoples. 

In partnership with the Department of Environmental Engineering  and Sociology Department of the Federal University of Ceará, Nelson is investigating how water management is structured institutionally. 

Nelson and his team are honing in on the ethics and values in how we interact with water, in recognition that people of varying backgrounds may value the environment in different ways. In a region with a wide variety of people relying on this waterway, there are a multitude of perspectives on the value the river holds, ranging from economic to spiritual, cultural, and ecological. 

The ultimate goal of the broader team’s research is to develop a set of best practices to help inform the federal government on how to manage water allocation. Nelson’s team is interacting with over 350 stakeholders in the watershed and highlighting the values and ethics of stakeholders that are typically overlooked. 

Funding for the research was provided by Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq)and the Brazilian National Water Agency (ANA).