Transboundary Freshwater Dispute Database | Publications

Jarvis, Todd, Mark Giordano, Shammy Puri, Kyoko Matsumoto, and Aaron Wolf. 2005. International Borders, Ground Water Flow, and Hydroschizophrenia. Ground Water , vol. 43, no. 5: 764-770 [PDF file]

A substantial body of research has been conducted on transboundary water, transboundary water law, and the mitigation of transboundary water conflict. However, most of this work has focused primarily on surface water supplies. While it is well understood that aquifers cross international boundaries and that the base flow of international river systems is often derived in part from ground water, transboundary ground water and surface water systems are usually managed under different regimes, resulting in what has been described as "hydroschizophrenia." Adding to the problem, the hydrologic relationships between surface and ground water supplies are only known at a reconnaissance level in even the most studied international basins, and thus even basic questions regarding the territorial sovereignty of ground water resources often remain unaddressed or even unasked. Despite the tensions inherent in the international setting, riparian nations have shown tremendous creativity in approaching regional development, often through preventive diplomacy, and the creation of "baskets of benefits," which allow for positive-sum, integrative allocations of joint gains. In contrast to the notion of imminent water wars, the history of hydropolitical relations worldwide has been overwhelmingly cooperative. Limited ground water management in the international arena, coupled with the fact that few states or countries regulate the use of ground water, begs the question: will international borders serve as boundaries for increased "flows" of hydrologic information and communication to maintain strategic aquifers, or will increased competition for shared ground water resources lead to the potential loss of strategic aquifers and "no flows" for both ground water users?