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February 25th, 2016
Infrastructure • Energy

The Brazilian Progestão, a national agreement for managing freshwater resources

Despite the great reserves of its vast river basins, Brazil has difficulty in distributing fresh water nationwide, to areas such as the northeast region of the country. In 2013, the National Water Agency created the Progestão, a pact for managing these resources while balancing the integration of federal policy against the needs and attributes of individual states.

The initiative

In 1997, the Brazilian government adopted the National Water Law and, in 2000, created the Agência Nacional de Águas [National Water Agency] (ANA) in 2000. “These achievements set the foundations for multi-level, integrated and place-based governance of water resources, as opposed to the centralised and technocratic model of development under the military regime.”

In 2011, the Ministry of the Environment and  ANA began to design a national water management programme, known as the Consolidation Programa de Consolidação do Pacto Nacional pela Gestão das Águas [the Programme of the National Pact for Water Management] (Progestão). It was designed as a “multi-level governance contract aiming to strengthen states' capacity to manage water resources in an integrated manner”.

It was launched in 2013. “Brazil's environment ministry and national water authority ANA have kicked off national water management program Progestão, according to a federal government release.

Progestão is an incentives-based programme aimed at achieving a more balanced water supply throughout the country.” [3] It was timed to coincide with World Water Day and the International Year of Water Cooperation.

Progestão is “integrated, decentralised and participative”, with the following objectives:

  • “Establishing commitments among federative units to overcome common challenges and lack of harmonisation. [4]
  • Encouraging multiple and sustainable use of water resources, especially in shared river basins.
  • Promoting an effective articulation between water resources management and regulation processes at national and state levels.
  • Empowering states towards greater capacity and awareness in dealing with water risks.”

Individual states' adherence to Progestão is voluntary, but implementation contracts have been signed by the ANA, state governments, and state water resources councils in 24 states.

Progestão sets short- and long-term goals with yearly targets. A water management framework is determined by states in collaboration with the ANA. Some targets are common to all states, while others are specific to a particular state and are developed by each state in tandem with the ANA. Data relating to targets are reviewed annually. States receive financial incentives for reaching their targets.

The challenge

Brazil has 12% of the world's fresh water held in the Amazon basin and seven other river basins. However, it is unevenly distributed across the country: “while approximately 70% of the water is in the Amazon basin in the north of the country, the country's northeast region contains less than 5% of water resources”. [1]

Areas such as the northeast are therefore liable to shortages and drought. “Water scarcity due to severe weather conditions in recent years has triggered a debate about how water resources can be managed effectively in a ‘water-rich' country.” [2]

The public impact

Brazil has made remarkable progress in water resource management since the National Water Law was introduced in 1997. Due to Progestão, most ‘target' states have largely complied with state water resource policies and increased their understanding of wider water resource issues. Furthermore some states that have worked with the World Bank to improve water infrastructure have seen economic benefit such as Santa Catarina. [5]

However, in  2015 severe droughts occurred in Brazil indicating that this is a long-term and arduous venture [6]: “the water supply crisis in Brazil's Southeast region (especially in the states of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo), following the driest winter period in 84 years, has shone a political spotlight on more structural challenges.” [7]

Stakeholder engagement

The main stakeholders in the Progestão were:

  • The federal government, principally the Ministry of the Environment, which provided incentives to the states to sign up.
  • The ANA, which plays an important national role in water management, given its central position in the extended network of stakeholders in Brazil's Amazon basin, and its technical capacity and financial resources.
  • The state governments (especially through their water resources councils approving targets), which actively participated in Progestão.
  • Local councils.

The OECD lists the following list of stakeholders engaged in the the Progestão besides the ANA: “National Water Resources Council, Secretariat of Water Resources and Urban Environment, 27 States and Federal District Management Government Agencies, 27 State and Federal District Water etc. Resources Councils, more than 200 River Basin Committees, Water Agencies, etc.” [8]

Political commitment

Progestão is a federal government initiative with strong financial backing. “At first, up to five instalments of BRL750,000 each will be released per state.” [9]

It has benefited from the joint efforts of the administrative and political coordinators. In order that “the states may receive the resources from the Progestão, the [state] governors must first sign a decree of enrolment”. [10] They are then able to benefit from the pact, which follows a model of integration and decentralisation, as provided for by the National Water Policy.

Public confidence

According to the OECD in 2015, there is little attention or support given by the media, or by the public, to ANA and, by extension, Progestão. “Although much acknowledged and respected by those who deal with it, the ANA sometimes seems to be isolated and lack support, at least in terms of public opinion and political interest. Similarly, despite the existence of the ANA, water still receives a rather low level of attention in the national agenda compared to other ‘national security' issues.” [11]

However, the launch of the pact was publicised in the Latin American media outlet, BNAmericas.

Clarity of objectives

The broad objective of Progestão was to achieve a more balanced and sustainable water supply throughout the country (see The initiative above).  A more specific objective was to establish a balance between integration and decentralisation, between water resources management and regulation processes at federal and at state levels.

These objectives were consistent over the period of time and were addressing the relevant issues, but they were not strictly measurable.

Strength of evidence

Progestão drew evidence from similar contracts that were being signed around the world. “The closest experience to Brazil is the Canada Water Act agreements signed between federal and state/provinces

since 1970 to strengthen multi-level governance on the conservation, development and use of the country's water resources.” [12]

There were two other agreements that provided useful guidance:

  • “ the Administrative Agreement on Water Affairs signed in 2011 in the Netherlands between the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment, regional water authorities, drinking water companies, provinces and municipalities, to foster efficiency gains across the water chain …
  • “The Australian National Water Initiative ... [which] was signed in 2004 between the federal government, New South Wales,

    Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory to increase water use efficiency.


Financial constraints were evaluated at the outset, but human resources constraints and other short-term targets were not.

Progestão includes a financial implementation mechanism making BRL100 million (approximately USD 40 million) available through ANA over a period of five years for the states reaching their goals. Moreover, some part of the funding will be generated by hydropower plants.

However, there are limited provisions for transparency and for the accountability of the beneficiaries (the individual state administrations), and limited information on the deployment of staff to implement the pact.


The ANA played a prominent and effective role in managing Progestão and in the step-by-step process of resolving the issues to form the policy. The Progestão is managed in five steps :

  • “Step 1: Join the Pact- A state decree agrees with the rules and indicates the state entity to be responsible for the Progestão. [13]
  • Step 2: Workshop - The ANA diagnoses the actual stage of development and supports the states in identifying their

    future challenges and the management typology.

  • Step 3:  Approval of targets- Every year, the state water resources council certifies the state water targets achieved …
  • Step  4: Signature of the contract - The ANA signs an individual contract with each state …
  • Step 5: Payments - First payment: upon the signature of the contract and approval of typology and targets by the state water resources council.”


The only metrics available for the measurement of the Progestão are the targets set for individual states. It is difficult to measure the efficiency of water management procedures and the actual impact they have on the distribution of fresh water, although the metrics from the 2015 drought (see Public impact above) indicate the level of difficulty.

The Progestão contract “commits individual states to achieve medium-term and final federative targets (defined by the ANA, common to all states, and to be completed each year) as well as state targets (defined by the states, with the ANA's technical support)”. [14]


The main actors in the Progestão, such as the ANA and the state governments (with their state water resources councils), are cooperating through contractual negotiations and relationships to make the change happen. “The ANA plays an important role in water management given its central position amongst the vast network of stakeholders in Brazil's ‘mega-river-basin', and its technical capacity and financial resources that surpass those of most states.” [14] There are opportunities for multilevel interactions with other actors, such as river basin committees and other state institutions.

Interested parties from civil society have an opportunity to make their voices heard. “There are incentives for newcomers and unheard voices (including from outside the water sector) to contribute to the Pact's implementation through regular public consultations.” [15]

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