Waterways are an important means of transport and a vital source of irrigation and hydropower in many countries. Brazil is no exception. And, due to its many rivers and basins, combined with its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, this South American country is very dependent on its network of rivers that wind their ways across, over and through the magnificent terrain.
Brazil is divided into the following hydrographical regions:
1. Amazon Basin
This is the most extensive river system in the world, according to many scientists. It has a total area of 7 008 370 square kilometres. Over two-thirds of the basin lies in Brazil, while the rest is split between Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru and Venezuela. Within Brazil, the Amazon Basin is in seven states and is, as its name implies, home to the world-acclaimed Amazon River.
A sunset on the Amazon River.
2. Araguaia-Tocantins Basin
This basin covers 967 059 square kilometres, which is equivalent to more than 10% of the entire country. It is made up of the Araguaia and Tocantins rivers. The Araguaia River is 2 600 kilometres long and is home to the world’s largest river island, Bananal, which is 350 kilometres long and 80 kilometres wide. The Tocantins River is 1 960 kilometres long.
3. Paraguay River Basin
This basin is an impressive 1 095 000 square kilometres in area, covering Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul in Brazil. It is also found in Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay. It is divided into the Pantanal Basin and the Planalto Basin.
4. Western North Atlantic Basin
This basin comprises five rivers and the coast of Maranhão and is situated in the state of the same name. It has a total area of 254 100 square kilometres.
5. Eastern Northeast Atlantic Basin
This basin has no large rivers and is, therefore, susceptible to droughts. The Paraiba and Acaraú rivers are two of its most notable. Within this main basin are several smaller basins, and the entire basin covers an area of 287 348 square kilometres.
6. Paraná Basin
The Paraná Basin, fed by the river of the same name, is a very important natural resource for Brazil. It has the largest economic development of the country and is extensive enough to reach just less than one-third of the Brazilian population. In addition, this basin has the largest production capacity and demand of energy in the entire country.
7. Parnaiba Basin
The Parnaiba Basin is split between Piauí, Maranhão and Ceará, with a total area of 344 112 square kilometres. Part of the basin falls in poverty-stricken areas. Here, the water usage is particularly high because of the lack of suitable drainage and irrigation methods.
8. Basin of São Francisco
Covering seven Brazilian states, this basin is the site of important historical events, making it particularly relevant to the social and cultural identity of Brazil. It comprises 99 constant tributaries and 69 intermittent ones and plays an integral role in the production of hydropower.
9. Eastern Atlantic Basin
With a reach of 526 Brazilian cities and centres, this basin certainly is an important one. It has a total area of 374 677 square kilometres and has as its main rivers the Contas, Salinas, Pardo and Mucuri. Another unique characteristic is that this basin includes a variety of water bodies, including streams, creeks and rivers.
10. Southeast Atlantic Basin
Being the industrial and financial epicentre of Brazil, this area is also the most densely populated. It covers the states of Rio de Janeiro, Espírito Santo, Mina Gerais, São Paulo and Paraná and has a total area of 229 972 square kilometres. Its major rivers are the Paraíba do Sul and the Doce.
11. South Atlantic Basin
This basin has a total area of 185 856 square kilometres and covers the Paraná, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul states. In Santa Catarina, the only two large rivers that contribute to this basin are the Itajaí and Capivari, while the remaining ones are all relatively small. Rio Grande do Sul, however, has more large rivers.
12. South Basin or Uruguay Basin
The Uruguay River eventually becomes the border between Brazil and Argentina. This basin is responsible for a vast proportion of the agribusiness in the region. Within Brazil, the basin covers the states of Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina, with a total area of 385 000 square kilometres.