Barriers to climate adaptation in urban areas: The case of water crisis in the Metropolitan Region of São Paulo

  • Ana Helena Palermo Kuss University of Freiburg
Keywords: Water governance, barriers to adaptation, Metropolitan Region of São Paulo, SES framework, drought, water crisis, institutional analysis, large-scale common pool resources, water security.


This study analyzes the current water crisis in in the Metropolitan Region of São Paulo. The study is based on a diagnosis of the main barriers that impeded government and other stakeholders at different governance levels to guarantee a secure water provision. The objective is to discuss why there was a lack of preparation of this region to the occurring of a prolonged drought and to identify which adaptation barriers contributed to this problem. The analysis is the result of an in-depth explanatory case study and field research, which has as its primary evidence a set of twelve semi-structured interviews made in the studied region in March and April 2015. Further evidence was extracted from newspaper articles, government reports, and scientific publications. The key reference of this study is the literature on barriers to adaptation to climate change. Ostrom’s (2009) Social-Ecological Systems (SES) framework provides the analytical framework used to analyze the collected data and Garrick et al. (2013), the diagnostic assessment. The results comprehend nine barriers that contributed to the water crisis. The paper shows how the misrepresentation of the interests of the population in having a secure water provision and the risky behavior of water managers influenced the crisis. It will be argued that the lack of specific governance mechanisms and the political power concentration, which characterizes the actual governance system, are central in the explanation of the ongoing crisis.

Author Biography

Ana Helena Palermo Kuss, University of Freiburg
Department of Economic Policy and Constitutional Economic Theory


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How to Cite
Palermo Kuss, A. H. (2017). Barriers to climate adaptation in urban areas: The case of water crisis in the Metropolitan Region of São Paulo. Brasiliana - Journal for Brazilian Studies, 5(2), 76-107.