MSc thesis defence Esmee van de Ridder: Polycentric Water Governance

Published on
June 30, 2022

You are hereby cordially invited to the MSc thesis presentation by Esmee van de Ridder on ' Polycentric Water Governance: A Game of Conflict, Coordination and Cooperation of Coping with Scale Challenges. A case study of the Banabuiú water basin, Ceará state, Brazil’.

- Art Dewulf
- Louise Cavalcante

- Katrien Termeer

Date: 5 July 2022
Time: 16.00 hours
Location: room 0067, Leeuwenborch and MS Teams Click here to join the meeting


Water governance arrangements and governmental policies on drought in Ceará state, Brazil have not proven completely successful in coping with the intense effects of drought, which highlights the wicked nature and degree of complexity in terms of relationships between diverging natural and social mechanisms. The polycentric water governance system in Ceará is an example of how a multifold of governmental and non-governmental actors come together for the management of water resources, and therefore cross-scale and cross-level challenges are inevitable. This thesis aims to contribute to the water governance field by discussing the polycentric water management system in northeast Brazil and analyzing the scale mismatches in the water management processes and level misalignments of different governance levels.

During a six-week field research in northeast Brazil, in Fortaleza and rural area in Ceará, data was collected by means of official water committee minutes, (non-) participant observation in the rural semi-arid of Ceará, and informal or semi-structured interviews with smallholder farmers, field technicians, civil servants and researchers. Data was analyzed by qualitative deductive and inductive coding.

The results showed that stakeholders in the polycentric water governance system engage mostly in polycentric and dependent relationships, but some hierarchical power-relations of coordination and management. The study identified three cross-scale spatial mismatches, namely (1) a lack of coordination between state level institutions and therefore the issue of state-level authorities failing to understand local water management realities, (2) issues of prioritization and power relations in water distribution across distinct basins and (3) a management gap between strategic and non-strategic reservoir management, and one cross-level misalignment namely (4) a lack of insight into local types of water management. Governmental policies on water resources and governance arrangements must continuously advance with local water realities and specificities to remain cross-scale fit and cross-level alignment.

Key words: Drought · Water Governance · Polycentric governance · Scale challenges · Cross-scale mismatch · Cross-level misalignment · Brazil