Social innovations for sustainable water use

Small-scale experiences in Lajedo de Timbaúba (Brazil) and Tamera (Portugal)


  • Maria da Conceição Alves Rodrigues Universidade Estadual da Paraíba
  • Carla Nogueira Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra & CinTurs – Research Centre for Tourism, Sustainability and Well-Being, Faculty of Economics, University of Algarve
  • Hugo Pinto Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra & Faculty of Economics, University of Algarve, Portugal


social innovation, water resources management, sustainable communities, sustainable transitions, Brazil, Portugal


Water is the most valuable resource on the planet. It is the basis of life, fundamental not only for the preservation of ecosystems but also for social well-being. Currently, and due to the climate crisis, contemporary societies are faced with structural challenges due to the scarcity of water resources. Traditional ways of managing this resource have not been able to respond to these challenges. Therefore, it is necessary to reflect on innovative approaches from a social point of view that can contribute to a sustainable transition where water represents an unavoidable dimension. This article argues that water should be managed in an integrated way, with the articulation of different actors so that solutions can take into account territorial specificities and individuals' needs. In this sense, the article mobilises two case studies - the Lajedo de Timbaúba community (Brazil) and the Tamera community (Portugal) - located in territories that recurrently suffer from drought situations to analyse their water retention and management strategies, categorising them as social innovations. The analysis reveals that these small-scale experiences - defined as niches - play a predominant role as places where innovative practices with potential for scalability emerge. However, this potential lacks a set of articulations between different institutional levels to be able to materialise.


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