Thinking inside the basin: scale in transboundary water management uri icon

abstract

  • While transboundary waters are widely advocated to be best managed at the basin level, practical experience in transboundary waters at the basin vis--vis other scales has not been systematically examined. To understand past experiences in transboundary water management at alternate scales, this paper: (i) determines the relative abundance of water treaties at different scales and (ii) elucidates how transboundary water law varies according to the scale to which it applies. The paper developed a scale typology with six groups, and systematically applied it to stratify transboundary water treaties. Treaty contents were then compared across scales according to the following set of parameters: primary issue area, temporal development, and important water management attributes. Results of this work reveal: (i) treaties tend to focus on hydropower and flood control at smaller scales, and organizations and policies at larger scales; (ii) a temporal trend toward treaties concluded at larger scales; and (iii) a higher proportion of treaties is at larger scales in Africa and Asia than in Europe and the Americas. These findings suggest that smaller scale cooperation may constitute a more constructive scale in which to achieve development-oriented cooperation. Further, scope may exist to complement basin scale cooperation with cooperation at smaller scales, in order to optimize transboundary water management. In the context of basin-wide management frameworks, Africa and Asia may benefit from greater emphasis on small-scale transboundary water cooperation
  • While transboundary waters are widely advocated to be best managed at the basin level, practical experience in transboundary waters at the basin vis-a-vis other scales has not been systematically examined. To understand past experiences in transboundary water management at alternate scales, this paper: (i) determines the relative abundance of water treaties at different scales and (ii) elucidates how transboundary water law varies according to the scale to which it applies. The paper developed a scale typology with six groups, and systematically applied it to stratify transboundary water treaties. Treaty contents were then compared across scales according to the following set of parameters: primary issue area, temporal development, and important water management attributes. Results of this work reveal: (i) treaties tend to focus on hydropower and flood control at smaller scales, and organizations and policies at larger scales; (ii) a temporal trend toward treaties concluded at larger scales; and (iii) a higher proportion of treaties is at larger scales in Africa and Asia than in Europe and the Americas. These findings suggest that smaller scale cooperation may constitute a more constructive scale in which to achieve development-oriented cooperation. Further, scope may exist to complement basin scale cooperation with cooperation at smaller scales, in order to optimize transboundary water management. In the context of basin-wide management frameworks, Africa and Asia may benefit from greater emphasis on small-scale transboundary water cooperation.

publication date

  • 2016
  • 2016
  • 2016