The Brazilian water legislation advocates that some uses have priority over others, but this aspect has never been clearly addressed, generating conflicts. Water authorities usually refer to hydrological models to justify their decisions on water allocation. However, a significant group of stakeholders does not feel qualified to discuss these models and is excluded from the decision process. We hereby propose a hydrologically robust method to correlate water uses with their respective reservoir alert volumes, which should empower the less formally educated stakeholders. The method consists of: (i) generating the water yield versus reliability curve, using a stochastic approach; (ii) generating the yield versus alert volume family of curves, using a water-balance approach; (iii) calibrating the key parameter T (depletion duration) using field data; and (iv) associating each water use with its alert volume. We have applied the method to four of the largest reservoirs (2 × 103
–2 × 102
) in the semi-arid Ceará State. The results indicate that low-priority water uses should be rationalized when the reservoir volume is below 20%, whereas uses with very high priority should start rationalization when it is below 11%. These hydrological guidelines should help enhance water governance among non-specialist stakeholders in water-scarce and reservoir-dependent regions.
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