We list here some works as a preliminary index of scientific sources that helps us to begin visualising and tracking the connections between UK and Brazil that encompass environment and digital hydro-citizenship.


Abers, R. N., Keck, M. E. (2006). Muddy waters: the political construction of deliberative river basin governance in Brazil. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 30(3), 601-622.

The diagnosis underpinning the article’s argument refers to the Brazilian context – although it could be about many other countries. “As in other policy areas, centralized and technocratic decision-making in the water sector has proved unable to resolve problems provoked by urbanization and industrialization in contexts of extreme social disparity. In areas as diverse as health, education and housing, recent administrative reforms devolve decision-making powers to municipal government at the same time as they mandate the creation of local stakeholder councils”, according to the authors (p. 602). In Brazil, the transition to “shared governance system involving deliberation by multiple stakeholders” brought, with institutional changes, the demand for cultural transformations as well, still in progress at the present time.


Abers, R. N., Keck, M. E. (2013). Practical authority: agency and institutional change in Brazilian water politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Abers & Keck (2013) characterize the innovations brought by the Brazilian water management system: “the reformers proposed creating decision-making institutions at the river basin level ─ a territorial unit that had no precedent in constitutional norms or historical practices” (p. 5). The new political arrangement around river basin committees formed arenas in which a variety of actors located in different positions and inspired by different motivations worked to modify the way in which people understand and make decisions on water resources. “By 2011, more than 133 million Brazilians lived within the territorial purview of at least one of them. Yet many committees were unable to carry out the tasks they were assigned by law, either because those responsibilities were vague or because they required the cooperation of other institutions that were unprepared of or even opposed to such changes” (p. 5).


Barry, J. (2005). Environment and social theory. New York: Routledge.

Greening social theory means many different and sometimes opposite things, but one aspect should stand clear: within social theory, ecology becomes a unique concept for research, given its potential to foster interdisciplinarity: “the science of ecology (dealing with facts and the way the natural world is) has tended to go hand in hand with normative claims (dealing with values and how the world should be, and how we ought to treat and use nature), and has found it difficult to maintain a strict and lasting separation between ‘facts’ and ‘values’”, writes the author (p. 207). “Eroding this strict distinction has placed ecology in a unique position as a ‘science’, as a form of knowledge which seems to bridge the natural and social sciences. This can be seen in how ‘environmental studies’ or ‘environmental management’ programmes in universities necessarily have to straddle the social and natural sciences, reflecting the interdisciplinary character of the forms of knowledge appropriate to articulating social-environmental relations” (p. 207).


Barry, J. (2006). Resistance is fertile: from environmental to sustainability citizenship. In Dobson, A., Bell, D. (eds). Environmental citizenship (pp. 21-48). Cambridge, MA. MIT Press.

“Sustainability citizenship, while of course centered on environmental issues, is not only incompletely defined by environmental actions but indeed must go beyond such action to encompass economic, social, political , and cultural spheres in its remit”, writes Barry (p. 24). “Sustainable development can be interpreted as denoting a commitment to a different type of society, at the heart of which is a commitment to a new view of a development that includes economic, environmental , and social bottom lines. In keeping with this wide view of sustainable development, sustainability citizenship is that form of citizen action that addresses and focuses on this broad and radical understanding of sustainable development, rather than narrowly focusing on its environmental dimension” (p. 24).


Bradley, S. et al. (2011). Doing flood risk science differently: an experiment in radical scientific method. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 36(1), 15-36.

The authors offer an account of a project which experimented with the “production and circulation of environmental knowledge in relation to rural land management and the ways in which the creative potential of ‘knowledge controversies’ can be positively harnessed in the practice of interdisciplinary public science” (p. 16). The focus is on the science of flood risk management, combined with local knowledge in strategies to reflect on the most appropriate ways of addressing actual needs. This poses a challenging endeavor to scientists working on how to encourage public engagement with science. “The supposed tension between the universal knowledge of Science and the local understandings generated through everyday life (…) may be more a consequence of how we, as experts, classify expert and vernacular knowledge than the nature of that knowledge itself. Not only are there similarities in the processes by which knowledge is acquired, but also in the content itself” (p. 28).


Dobson, A. (2007). Environmental citizenship: towards sustainable development. Sustainable Development, 15, 276-285.

“What do we mean by environmental or ecological citizenship?”, asks the author (p. 280). “First of all, environmental citizenship involves the recognition that self-interested behaviour will not always protect or sustain public goods such as the environment. Thus environmental citizens make a commitment to the common good. (…) Second, environmental citizenship follows through the implications of the view that environmental responsibilities follow from environmental rights as a matter of natural justice. Citizenship has always been a matter of balancing rights and responsibilities” (p. 280). “Traditionally, citizenship has been associated with public spaces: debating, acting, protesting, demanding – in public. Environmental citizenship shares this traditional element. Environmental citizens will debate, act, protest, demand – in public, but environmental citizens also know that their private actions have public implications” (p. 282).


Fishera, B., Turnera, R. K., Morlingb, P. (2009). Defining and classifying ecosystem services for decision making. Ecological Economics, 68(3), 643-653.

The complexities emerging from decision-making in participatory designs such as river basin committees have been studied by social sciences, mainly drawing from democratic theory. But they also can be examined in terms of the ecosystem services provided by river basins, which makes the definitions this article sums up particularly useful. The authors “propose that ecosystem services are the aspects of ecosystems utilized (actively or passively) to produce human well-being. The key points are that 1) services must be ecological phenomena and 2) that they do not have to be directly utilized. Defined this way, ecosystem services include ecosystem organization or structure as well as process and/or functions if they are consumed or utilized by humanity either directly or indirectly” (p. 645).


Gooch, G. D., Stålnacke, P. (eds.) (2010). Science, policy and stakeholders in water management: an integrated approach to river basin management. London: Earthscan.

“We deliberately stress that just as stakeholders and the public have forms of knowledge vital to sustainable water management, scientists and managers who are also not specifically expert in water management can also contribute to the field through their understanding of many of the issues that are central to water issues. Water management is not a standalone issue; it is embedded in all other societal issues”, the authors suggest (p. 4). Part of the answer they provide to understand the dilemmas arising from the complex problems involved in water management comes in the form of the “science–policy–stakeholder interface”, in terms of “an interaction between scientific knowledge and other forms of knowledge, and an acceptance by representatives of the different science groups that other forms of knowledge are also legitimate” (p. 5).


Hampton, G. (2009). Narrative policy analysis and the integration of public involvement in decision making. Policy Sci, 42, 227-242.

“Narrative policy analysis consists of the identification of narratives which describe policy dilemmas” (p. 228). From this, Hampton develops a comprehensive approach on how decision-making processes can be studied and understood in terms of the narratives underlying different perspectives from various social actors. Public participation, planning and participatory expertise are components of his take on the subject. Narrative policy analysis “begins with the identification of dominant narratives, which express uncertainty and complexity and non-stories and counter-stories, which are contrary to the dominant narrative. The policy analyst then generates a meta-narrative derived from the comparison of stories, non-stories and counterstories” (p. 228).


Hochstetler, K., Keck, M. E. (2007). Greening Brazil: environmental activism in state and society. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

In Brazil, “by 1980 the environment was becoming a political issue, linked to a critique of the developmentalist economic model”, write the authors (p. 32). The management system created by a federal law passed in 1981 “established the first institutional framework within environmental protection could be addressed holistically, from federal to local levels and across a variety of sectors. (…) The 1988 Constitution later enshrined councils of government and non-governmental participants at all levels of politics as mechanisms to institutionalize social movements’ hopes for greater participation in politics (…) New water basin councils were set up from mid-1990s with a mandate to promote water quality as well as establish priorities for its allocation among uses (…) These institutions have varied in how well they work as mechanisms of interest representation” (p. 33-34).


Irvin, R. A., Stansbury, J. (2004). Citizen participation in decision making: is it worth the effort? Public Administration Review, 64(1), 55-65.

Public participation in policy-making has been widely regarded as key for strengthening governance and reaching policy efficacy and effectiveness. However, in some cases it carries costs which can hinder the process. Irvin & Stansbury analyse a case involving the United States Environmental Protection Agency, where the disadvantages of public participation may have overcome the benefits, regarding problems related to high costs, low representativeness, lack of authority, wrong decisions and personal gains over altruistic concerns. “Evidence for the effectiveness of community participation in environmental management is in short supply, partly due to the problems inherent in measuring the success of environmental policies that may take decades to positively affect the environment” (p. 62-63).


Lejano, R. P., Tavares-Reager, J., Berkes, F. (2013). Climate and narrative: environmental knowledge in everyday life. Environmental Science & Policy, 31, 61-70.

The authors consider narratives as “multiple ways of knowing – including scientific, normative, and cultural dimensions” and compare the discourse propagated by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) with narratives that circulate among ordinary citizens and make sense of the controversies surrounding the issue. “To spur people to action, issues like climate change need to be integrated into the everyday narratives that people tell about themselves and their world” (p. 61), so narrative analysis is useful to understand how institutional discourses have been modified in the public sphere.


Nones, M. (2016). Is public participation an added value for river basin management? European Planning Studies, 24(6), 1159-1174.

After 15 years the European Water Framework Directive (WFD) came into force (September 2000), calling for broader public participation in water management, challenges remain: “the importance of public participation is still an open question, which has to be addressed in a better way within the future cycle in order to meet the WFD requirements before the next deadline, fixed by 2021”, point the authors (p. 1160). “The purpose of the participatory requirements is to support the effectiveness of the WFD, including an active involvement of interested stakeholders and citizens. Although this law has a particular focus on the production, review and updating of river basin management plans, the encouragement of actively involving stakeholders in the wider WFD implementation process has to be definitely considered in the future” (p. 1160).


Porto, M., Kelman, J. (2000). Water resources policy in Brazil. Rivers, 7(3).

Porto & Kelman provide an overview on the Brazilian laws regarding water management and role performed in that system by the river basin committees and their participatory structure: “in order to counter balance any tendency to centralize the decision making process, the Water Law calls for the formation of river basin committees” (p. 8). Conflicts and power inequalities arising from the dynamics of committees meetings and arrangements are examined by the authors. The diversity of actors and institutions involved are also characterized.


Porto, M. (1998). The Brazilian water law: a new level of participation and decision making. International Journal of Water Resources Development, 14(2), 175-182.

Early accounts of the participatory formats regarding water management are presented by Porto, who focuses on what is believed to be the first river basin committee in the country, created under the São Paulo state law 7.663, from 1991, which rules the exploitation of water resources and sets the stage for the creation of river basin committees. Federal law 9.433 would extend the same logic to the whole country only four years later (in 1997). Both laws are consequences of a specific understanding of how federal, state and municipal powers should interact and become responsible for managing public policies, enshrined in the federal constitution promulgated in 1988, after redemocratisation took place in 1985.


Porto, M., Porto, R. L., Azevedo, L. G. T. (1999). A participatory approach to watershed management: the Brazilian system. Journal of the American Water Resources Association, 35(3), 675-683.

The complex power conflicts rapidly emerging from the redemocratisation context in Brazil in 1988 regarding water management are described and analysed in this article, which offers a general look at how the new participatory structures, particularly the river basin committees, were designed in order to cope with the difficulties posed by the reconstruction of a federal political system with completely new functions performed by state and municipal levels. Not every one of the 27 federal units had the same demands for water management, what explains why it took almost ten years after the new constitution was promulgated to the country reach a consensus around a national water policy.


Scholz, R. W. (2011). Environmental literacy in science and society: from knowledge to decisions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Environmental literacy is the “ability to appropriately read, utilize and to anticipate rebound effects or to adapt to environmental resources, system dynamics and information” (p. 15). From this, five key consecutive levels of questions should be distinguished in developing environmental literacy: 1. “the competence and the willingness to perceive, define and frame an environmental problem”; 2. “identification of the drivers of human systems, in particular those which neglect environmental awareness”; 3. understanding of which “manmade environmental impacts can/ should we change”, considering, for example, how the emergence of forest protection suggests that “human demands on environmental resources are often a matter of conflict between different human systems”; 4. “diagnosing and coping with the different types of conflicts that may result” from interventions in the exploitation of limited resources; 5. making knowledge on “mechanisms of changes of the material environment, the feedback loops between human and environmental systems” accessible to decision-makers (p. 15-16).


Vignola, R., McDaniels, T. L., Scholz, R. W. (2013). Governance structures for ecosystem-based adaptation: Using policy-network analysis to identify key organizations for bridging information across scales and policy areas. Environmental Science & Policy, 31, 71-84.

How organisations can facilitate the exchange of information and knowledge needed for informed decision-making? The authors address this question by taking a case study in which policy-network analysis was fundamental to strengthen governance structures towards an ecosystem-based adaptation. “We use the term ‘bridging organization’ (…) to refer to potential boundary organizations that play important roles in sharing information across domains and scales. (…) Bridging organizations are key actors in information-sharing networks, capable of spanning information across scales and knowledge systems. They can potentially promote opportunities for mutual understanding of preferences and meanings among different epistemic communities. They can potentially play a role as knowledge-brokers (…) by potentially helping to create collaborative partnerships between farmers, scientists, and policy makers (…)” (p. 72-73).