This paper presents the conceptual framework for regulating water use in cases where water is a public good. Public agencies with an independent directive board can successfully manage such a situation. Through a comprehensive system of water permits, charging and control it is possible to effectively manage water resources. Together with the conceptual framework a practical application is presented. The case of the National Water Agency of Brazil - ANA - shows that it is possible to implement modern water resources management concepts in less developed countries. The benefits of this institutional arrangement are demonstrated in the case of managing water conflicts among water users. Two situations are described: the semi-arid water allocation for agricultural use in the Jaraguaribe River Basin in Ceara State and the conflict between the hydropower and navigation sectors in the Parana River Basin.

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