Water management measures are often pointed out as resolution alternatives for first-order water conflicts (related to water resources scarcity). However, adoption of these measures, which requires a societal adaptation effort, may act as a source of second-order conflicts (related to social resources scarcity). This makes it important to evaluate water management measures with regard to their potential for second-order conflicts induction, considering the influence exerted by the institutional and socioeconomic environment where they might be applied. Therefore, this article presents a methodology—based on conflict theory concepts and analysis tools and on a multidisciplinary approach—for systematically analyzing first- and second-order water conflicts, which aims to identify the best alternatives for first-order conflicts resolution as well as the most adequate guidelines for avoiding or minimizing induced second-order conflicts. The methodology comprises seven major steps (data collection and compilation, water institutional framework analysis, water conflicts identification, conflicts pre-analysis, first-order conflicts analysis, second-order conflicts analysis and results analysis), which are illustrated through their application to the semi-arid portion of the Paraíba River Basin in northeast Brazil. As the results indicate, the methodology constitutes a useful tool for supporting both political and operational water management decision making at the basin, sub-basin, or local level.

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