Research Guide on Transboundary Freshwater Treaties and Other Resources

 

By Arundhati A. Satkalmi

 

Arundhati Ashok Satkalmi is a Senior Research Librarian at the Rittenberg Law Library of St. John's University School of Law.  Prior to joining St. John's in 1991, Aru worked as the Senior Information Specialist at the corporate headquarters of the Exxon Corporation in New York.  In addition to a Masters in Library Science from St. John's University, she holds a Masters in Government and Politics where she specialized in International Law.  International Convention for the Control and Management of Ship's Ballast Water and Sediments of 2004: An Analysis of Logical and Practical Aspects was her thesis.  In 2012, she earned a certificate in earned a certificate from UNITAR in International Environmental Law. She also holds a Master of Science degree in Geology from Poona University.  She has presented on the topic of international marine environmental law to the Indian Society of International Law and American Association of Law Librarians.

 

The idea of creating this research guide was originally conceived by Barbara H. Bean who is a Reference and Public Services Librarian at Michigan State University College of Law, East Lansing, Michigan. Acting on the idea, she published the original research guide in April 2007. This article is a revised and updated version of that article.

 

Published February 2014

 

Table of Contents

1.      Introduction

2.      Water Basics

3.      Treaties and Other International Agreements

3.1. Global and Regional Agreements

3.2.   Sources of Regional, Multilateral and Bilateral Agreements

3.3.   Non-treaty Instruments

3.4.   Selected Background Materials

4.      International Organizations

4.1. IGOs

4.2.   NGOs

5.      International Water Commissions

6.      Cases and International Events

7.      Commentary

1.      Introduction

Water, the most common substance on earth, covers seventy percent of the earth's surface. It is a renewable, but finite resource. Less than three percent of the world's water is fresh and most of that is trapped in glaciers or inaccessible snow cover. [1] In addition to accessible surface water contained in lakes and rivers, the vast majority of the earth’s freshwater consists of groundwater held in underground aquifers. Although a "hidden resource", groundwater serves the basic needs of more than half the world's population and may be the only source of water in arid and semi-arid regions.

 

Besides being a natural beverage to quench thirst, freshwater is essential for all aspects of human activity.  Agriculture — a major source of food and human sustenance; navigation — for tourism, recreation and commerce; energy generation — the necessity of computerized world in this information age; and many other aspects of civilization would be unimaginable in absence of freshwater supply. Life on Earth and civilization will be adversely affected if freshwater supply is inadequate.

 

Approximately 260 of the world's river basins, with a majority of the world's freshwater flow, cross or create international political boundaries. [2]  145 countries, with close to half of the world's population, are located in international river basins. [3] Therefore, cooperative management of this precious natural resource is imperative. Although conflicts over water resources date back thousands of years — in spite of, or perhaps because of  the crucial role water plays in sustaining human civilization — nations are developing ways to share freshwater resources. In addition to global conventions and rules governing the use of water resources, hundreds of regional treaties and agreements exist between and among nations to address issues ranging from acceptable water quality and quantity to setting of national borders. Many treaties contain mechanisms for conflict resolution and many establish international commissions for water resource management.

 

Different forms and levels in which water exists, in conjunction with multiple uses of the resource, and diversity of adjudicative bodies such as commissions, tribunals, and courts, present a very complex web of freshwater international law. Moreover, bilateral or regional agreements and related documents tend to exist only in the language(s) of the involved entities. These facts present a challenge in conducting research. Although many commercial vendors such as Westlaw, LexisNexis, and HeinOnline provide access to documents and literature for a price, this article dwells on accessing information resources which are available on the Internet at no cost. The article does not claim to be an exhaustive one and should be looked at as the tip of the iceberg.

 

2.      Water Basics

A sample of resources containing terminology, water data and information about world water resources.

3.      Treaties and other International Agreements

3.1.   Major Global and Regional Agreements

3.2.   Sources of Regional, Multilateral and Bilateral Agreements

Some agreements may be found in general treaty collections, such as the United Nations Treaty Collection. However, the sources described below focus on treaties and agreements involving freshwater.

3.3.   Non-treaty Instruments

3.4.   Selected Background Materials

Topics Completed: Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses (Topic 8.3). Topics under consideration: Shared Natural Resources (includes draft convention on transboundary aquifers) (Topic 8.5)

 

 

 

Analysis of the interface between land tenure and water rights.

 

4.      International Organizations

4.1.   IGOs

 

 

 

 

4.2.   NGOs

 

 

 

 

 

5.      International Water Commissions

Management of transboundary water resources is sometimes delegated to a regional commission. Listed below are commissions for which websites were located.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6.     Cases and International Events

 

 

 

 

7.      Commentary

This article, thus far, has described resources in various categories. However, there are some resources which do not fit neatly in any of them. I will comment on such resources in this section. Attempt will be made to minimize duplication.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In closing, I would like to suggest a few monographs published in 2013: Cooperation in the law of transboundary water resources ,    International watercourses law in the Nile Basin : Three States at a Crossroads by Tadesse Kassa Woldetsadik, International Law And Freshwater International conflict over water resources in Himalayan Asia , and a forthcoming title in 2014, The right(s) to water : the multi-level governance of a unique human right . A few ongoing publications, such as International journal of water resources development , International journal of river basin management , Water policy : official journal of the World Water Council , Journal of transboundary water resources , and Water resources management : an international journal would help researchers to stay current. Finally, do not hesitate to use Google while ensuring that the sources are credible.



[1] UN Water Statistics - Water Resources ; Accessed from http://www.unwater.org/statistics_res.html on December 27, 2013.

[2] UNEP; The World’s International Freshwater Agreements: Historical Developments and Future Opportunities; p.1; in Atlas of International Freshwater Agreements ; 2002.

[3] Id. Page 2.

[8] Accessed from http://www.worldwater.org/books.html on December 27, 2013.

[9] Accessed from http://www.worldwater.org/data.html on December 27, 2013.

[12] Supplemental information is available at the Ramsar Convention Website .

[15] Accessed from http://www.un.org/law/cod/watere.htm on December 27, 2013.

[16] Accessed from http://www.ecolex.org/start.php on December 27, 2013.

[17] Accessed from http://sedac.ciesin.columbia.edu/entri/ on December 27, 2013.

[25] Available at http://www.ila-hq.org/en/committees/index.cfm/cid/32 . Accessed on December 27, 2013

[27] Accessed from http://www.waterlawandstandards.org/ on December 27, 2013.

[30] Accessed from http://www.unep.org/dewa/giwa/ on December 28, 2013.

[32] Accessed from http://www.internationalwaterlaw.org/ on December 28, 2013.

[33] Accessed from http://www.pacinst.org/ on December 28, 2013.

[34] Accessed from http://www.worldwatch.org/ on December 28, 2013.

[36] The Amazon Cooperation Treaty, Article XXIII. Accessed from  http://otca.info/portal/admin/_upload/tratado/The_Amazon_Cooperation_Treaty.pdf on December 28, 2013.

[38] The description is taken from http://www.swedishwaterhouse.se/transboundarywaters/?actor=97 on December 28, 2013.

[39] The description is taken from http://www.swedishwaterhouse.se/transboundarywaters/?actor=82 on December 28, 2013. 

[40] Timmerman, J.G. and Doze, J.; (2005); Transboundary river basin management regimes: the Guadiana basin case study; Background report to Deliverable 1.3.1 of the NeWater project, Lelystad. Accessed from http://www.citg.tudelft.nl/fileadmin/Faculteit/CiTG/Over_de_faculteit/Afdelingen/Afdeling_watermanagement/Secties/waterhuishouding/Leerstoelen/Waterbeheer/People/old/Raadgever,_G.T./doc/D131_Guadiana_Final.pdf on December 28, 2013.

[41] Accessed from http://www.cicplata.org/ on December 29, 2013.

[42] Treaty on the River Plate Basin; International Legal Materials , Vol. 8, No. 5; September 1969; pp 905-909.

[43] Accessed from http://www.ibwc.state.gov/ on December 29, 2013.

[44] Adopted from the description available at http://www.ibwc.state.gov/home.html . Accessed on December 29, 2013.

[46] For the English version of convention, see Ruester, B., Simma B., and Bock, M.; International Protection of the Environment , Vol.XXV, p. 285.

[53] Accessed from http://www.ijc.org/en_/BWT on December 29, 2013.

[55] Available from http://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/water-framework/ Accessed on December 29, 2013.

[56] Accessed from http://www.savacommission.org on December 29, 2013.

[57] Accessed from http://www.icwc-aral.uz/ on December 29, 2013.

[59] Accessed from http://www.lhwp.org.ls/default.htm on December 29, 2013.

[60] Accessed from http://www.mrcmekong.org/ on December 29, 2013.

[61] Accessed from http://www.nilebasin.org/newsite/ on December 29, 2013.

[63] Convention summary was accessed on November 27, 2013 from http://faolex.fao.org/cgi-bin/faolex.exe?rec_id=011138&database=faolex&search_type=link&table=result&lang=spa&format_name=@SRALL which contains a link to English version.  The convention is also available at http://www.internationalwaterlaw.org/documents/regionaldocs/gambia-river.html .  Accessed on December 29, 2013.

[64] Accessed on December 29, 2013.

[65] French version of the agreement is available at Convention relative au Statut du fleuve Sénégal. Signée à Nouakchott, le 11 mars 1972. Accessed on November 27, 2013

[66] All links in this entry were accessed on December 29, 2013.

[69] Accessed from http://www.zaraho.org.zm/legal-status.html on December 29, 2013.

[71] Accessed from http://www.icj-cij.org/homepage/ on December 29, 2013.

[75] Accessed from http://www.worldwater.org/conflict/list/ on December 29, 2013.