This paper proposes an adaptation of the Rural Water Sustainability Index (RWSI) to the Brazilian Amazon region. Policymakers can use this tool to identify areas of water stress and develop actions to guarantee water access to rural communities. Multi-criteria analysis and a geographical information system were integrated to incorporate various indicators and produce maps displaying spatial water sustainability levels in rural communities. The RWSI was employed on a case study at 16 rural communities in Santa Luzia do Pará, Pará, Brazil. In total, 380 closed and structured interviews were conducted with people living in the area to collect local information for the model application. The results showed a varied spatial behavior between rural communities of Santa Luzia do Pará, with similarities and differences based on the overall condition of water resources (final index values). Half of the locations had ‘Poor’ or ‘Poor-Medium’ water quality. The remaining sample obtained scores ranging from ‘Medium-Good’ to ‘Good’ water sustainability. RWSI’ scores varied widely (from 5.7 to 6.5) among the communities. It was also found that localities more distant from surface water presented more water stress.

  • The study proposes an analysis of innovative multi-criteria and participative approaches for rural communities in the Amazon region of Brazil.

  • A sensitivity analysis was carried out to test the robustness of the Rural Water Sustainability Index and verify redundancies among variables.

  • A cluster analysis was performed to classify all 16 rural communities into manageable groups, considering their performance in components in the elaborated method.

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