The Brazilian Water Resources Policy (Law 9433/1997) establishes participatory and decentralized management, involving civil society, water users and governmental bodies, with the basin committees as the basis of this process. Fifteen years after its implementation, it is possible to perceive accomplishments, but, at the same time, there are some difficulties in regards to the operation of the basin committees in the country. Considering the North Paraíba River Basin – which is completely included in the State of Paraíba, Northeastern Brazil, and presents great social and economic importance for the state – this article analyzes the process of formation, installation and functioning of its Basin Committee (CBH-PB), focusing on its composition, the reasons for the mobilization and demobilization of its members, the intra-relations between segments, and the inter-relations between the CBH-PB and other entities of the State Water Management System (the Water Executive Agency and the State Water Resources Council). The level of decentralization and the quality of participatory management (as it is being performed at the CBH-PB) are discussed and guidelines are suggested in order to allow greater effectiveness to the committee.

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