International River Basins of the World

International Journal of Water Resources Development, Vol. 15 No. 4, December 1999.

Aaron T. Wolf 1 (Oregon State University)

Jeffrey A. Natharius (Alabama Office of Water Resources)

Jeffrey J. Danielson (Raytheon and EROS Data Center)

Brian S. Ward (Oregon State University)

Jan K. Pender (Legacy, Inc.)


It is becoming acknowledged that water is likely to be the most pressing environmental concern of the next century.Difficulties in river basin management are only exacerbated when the resource crosses international boundaries.One critical aid in the assessment of international waters has been the Register of International Rivers a compendium which listed 214 international waterways that cover 47% of the earth's continental land-surface.The Register, though, was last updated in 1978 by the now-defunct United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. 

The purpose of this paper is to update the Register in order to reflect the quantum changes that have taken place over the last 22 years, both in global geopolitics and in map coverage and technology. By accessing digital elevation models at spatial resolutions of 30 arc seconds, corroborating at a unified global map coverage of at least 1:1,000,000, and superimposing the results over complete coverage of current political boundaries, we are able to provide a new register which lists 261 international rivers, covering 45.3% of the land-surface of the earth (excluding Antarctica). This paper lists all international rivers with their watershed areas, the nations which share each watershed, their respective territorial percentages, and notes on changes or disputes in international boundaries since 1978.

Table of Contents




MAP 1: International River Basins of the World

TABLE 1: Number of International Basins

TABLE 2: Percentage of area within international basins

TABLE 3: Percentage of nations within international basins

TABLE 4: International River Basins register (including detailed maps of basins)

TABLE 5: Percentage of a Country's Area Within International Basins

TABLE 6: Number of Countries That Share a Basin

WEB SITE: Transboundary Freshwater Dispute Database Project