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You are thirsty for what?

A study underlines the need for the management of Brazilian rivers

The author of the book Água no Século XXI – Enfrentando a Escassez (Water in the 21st Century – Facing the Shortage), José Galizia Tundisi, figures in the gallery of the best limnologists in the world, outstanding both in scientific rigor and professionally, but mainly in the originality of his approach towards tropical and subtropical resources. As a limnologist he has developed research especially into the mechanisms of the functioning of lakes, rivers, dams.

On presenting the critical problems resulting from human action on the terrestrial hydrologic cycle, the professor insists on an environmental, social and economic understanding of the integrated administration of hydrographic basins in Brazil, in particular. The richness of the information made available by the author makes possible an evaluation of the degradation of the quality of the water of our rivers, lakes, flooded areas or dams, mainly when faced with the vexing sanitary picture of our towns and cities.

Also, he goes into the environmental, economic and social aspects of the multiple use of water in the world in general, and in Brazil in particular. He presents the institutional/legal framework current in Brazil by way of the 1988 Constitution, mainly Law Number 9.433/97 (known as the Law on Water), which organized the planning and administration sector of water resources at the national field, introducing several tools of policy to the sector. As a new and relevant fact, there was the promulgation of Federal Law Number 9.984/00, which established the National Water Agency (ANA), a regulating entity on the use of water under the domain of the Union.

A professor at the Hydraulic and Sanitation Department of the São Carlos School of Engineering at the University of São Paulo (EESC/USP) and President of the International Institute of Ecology (IIE), the author focuses on environmental themes in general and on water resources in particular, underlining the necessity of integrated and dynamic management of the waters that flow through rivers (blue water flow), of the waters that infiltrate into the lands of the hydrographic basin under discussion and give support to the development of natural or cultivated biomass (green water flow), of the subterranean waters, that feed the run off of the rivers during periods without rains (gray water flow), and the re-use of water. He insists on the need for an institutional organization and one that manages the offer of the more and more efficient use of each drop of fresh water available, both in the towns and in industries, but principally in agriculture.

Consequently, the text presented allows for a whole and updated vision and the need for integrated and dynamic management of the world’s waters in general and of Brazil in particular, constituting, without a doubt, an excellent contribution to the current knowledge about the issue. In Brazil, in particular, this book has been filling a large gap in the specialized approach to this ancient but polemic question, which is the integrated and dynamic management of the waters on behalf of sustainable development. This development implies, it is clear, limitations imposed by the current state of technology and of the organization of the three main sectors considered over the last few decades of the world as being in general (i) the political or government system, also said to be the first sector, (ii) the companies or second sector and (iii) organized civil society or the third sector.

Certainly it is evident that in a world where poverty is endemic it will always be subject to ecological catastrophes and water crises or crises of another nature. In Brazil, in particular, although it displays the largest outflow of freshwater in the world through its rivers, to fight for a more and more efficient use of each drop of available water is to fight against poverty, for life, for health and for food for all.

Aldo da C. Rebouças is a researcher in the area of environment and water resources at the Advanced Studies Institute of the University of São Paulo (IEA/USP)

Água no Século XXI – Enfrentando a Escassez (Water in the 21st Century – Confronting the Shortage)
José Galizia Tundisi
Editor: RiMa / IIE
256 pages
R$ 38.90