Transboundary Freshwater Dispute Database | Publications

Giordano, Meredith. 2002. International River Basin Management: Global Principles and Basin Practice. Oregon State University . Ph.D. Dissertation. [PDF file]

Transcending human-defined political and administrative boundaries, the world's transboundary freshwater resources pose particularly challenging management problems.Water resource users at all scales frequently find themselves in direct competition for this economic and life-sustaining resource, in turn creating tensions, and indeed conflict, over water supply, allocation and quality. At the international scale, where the potential for conflict is of particular concern, the international community has devised generalized, global principles for the management of international rivers, most notably through the 1997 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses. While offering a general framework, these principles are rarely explicitly invoked in actual practice. Rather, co-riparian nations have tended to focus on local needs and conditions when developing treaties and similar basin-level agreements to manage shared water bodies, raising the question of whether global rules for basin management can be successful or if the unique characteristics of each basin require independently designed management regimes. The present work explores this question through an examination of transboundary freshwater management from three perspectives: global, regional, and functional. From the global perspective, the first section examines the dichotomous relationship between international principles and basin-level practices of transboundary water management and suggests that the divergent outcomes stem from the absence of theoretical underpinnings in support of a generalized management framework. From a regional perspective, the second section of the dissertation introduces and applies a unique framework for comparing the dynamics of water cooperation and conflict across basins, finding significant geographic variability in three case studies centered on the Middle East , South Asia and Southern Africa . Finally, the third section of the dissertation takes a functional perspective through a survey of international water quality institutions, the results of which indicate a lack of widespread water quality management frameworks despite the encouragement of the international community. Together, this three-dimensional study of international river basin management highlights the geographic variability of riparian interactions and suggests a need for more spatially focused support and assistance on the part of the international community if its objective of fostering and strengthening cooperation over international freshwaters is to be met.