Transboundary Freshwater Dispute Database | Publications

Matsumoto, Kyoko. 2002. Transboundary Groundwater and International Law: Past Practices and Current Implications. Oregon State University. Master's paper. [PDF file]

Despite their significance, physical interactions between surface and groundwater have largely been ignored in international water law. While surface water has been given considerable attention as a transboundary natural resource, groundwater has not received the same recognition. International legal doctrines regarding water, such as the 1997 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses, only recognized one aspect of groundwater, excluding confined aquifers. This study discusses how international freshwater treaties have addressed groundwater resources in the past, and considers current trends. While the issue of transboundary groundwater in international treaties is becoming increasingly relevant as disputes over groundwater resources come to the fore, it is usually only indirectly mentioned in treaties. Groundwater and surface water should be considered together as part of the hydrological cycle and reflected as such in the legal realm. The uncertainty of physical properties is not an excuse for the delay of a concrete framework. The “precautionary principle” should play a role as a guiding factor. An Interactive Coordinated Approach (ICA) is recommended as a guideline for future implementation of transboundary groundwater management. The purpose of this study is to demonstrate the need to develop comprehensive transboundary groundwater management schemes.