An evaluation of major impacts from human activities at the Piracicaba river basin, Minas Gerais State, (southeast Brazil) was used to develop an environmental education programme involving representatives of nine municipalities. The provisioning of local communities with an access to environmental knowledge through a continuous process of information exchange was the basic objective of the programme. The methods adopted were based on a participative planning which defined a set of integrated activities, aimed at the communities, in general (e.g. production of an educative film and public enquiries), and at opinion formers and decision-makers, in particular (e.g. short and longer-courses). The adoption of the programme by the local communities, the area covered, the shortage of adequate literature and specially trained people at the University are pointed out as the basic difficulties for the development of the programme. The proposed methodology and the experience gained during the 18 months has demonstrated the importance of developing activities under short and average time span perspectives, conducted in a planned and participative way. The results also suggest the need for environmental education as a basis in recovering and maintaining ecosystem health.