Public-Private Partnerships: An Environmental Sustainability and Social Equity Assessment for Water and Sanitation Provision in São Paulo, Brazil

Authors: Flavia Bonolo Dantas*, Texas A&M University
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Geography and Urban Health, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: water insecurity; public-private partnership; environmental sustainability; social equity.
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 4:00 PM / 5:40 PM
Room: Studio 7, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This study assessed the public-private partnership model for water governance in metropolitan São Paulo, Brazil. The unit of analysis was Sabesp, the local water and sanitation utility. The research question for this study was: Can a mixed capital company provide sustainable and equitable services in line with the complex inequalities and environmental constraints inherent to the study area? What are the mechanisms involved to ensure urban water security and socio-environmental accountability? The question and criteria aimed to address a gap in knowledge detected around this topic in light of the urban water crisis in 2014. Some methodological procedures were used for acquiring new, unpublished data such semi-structured interviews with local professionals from sector, public policy institutions, international organizations, and urban water activists. Results showed a positive assessment of the services provided by Sabesp in comparison with national standards, but contradictions in the governance structure and resource management within the model were observed. Affordable provision was ensured by legally binding guidelines and mechanisms due to strong and reliable presence of autonomous regulatory agencies, yet the model failed to meet fair standards for social equitability of urban water provision. Inner-city disparities were enhanced during the water crisis and socioeconomic vulnerabilities were accentuated as the model failed to address water fragmentation and uneven access. The environmental sustainability of the model was seriously questioned, as actions taken to mitigate water shortage in the 2014 crisis are very likely to intensify urban water insecurity in the coming years.

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