International Watercourses

Patricia Wouters

in International Law

ISBN: 9780199796953
Published online March 2012 | | DOI:
International Watercourses

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The rules of international law governing transboundary waters are anchored in the rules and practice of public international law. The UN Charter’s provisions calling for the maintenance of international peace and security, as well as the promotion of international cooperation and the fundamental freedoms of all, have a direct bearing on the law that governs the world’s transboundary waters. Thus, a study in this particular field must begin within the context of the law of nations. International water law, used here as a catchphrase to refer to the international treaty norms and customary rules that apply to the fresh waters shared by two or more nation-states (transboundary watercourses), has evolved into an identifiable body of rules and practices over the past half-century. While early concerns related mostly to boundary delimitation and navigation, current challenges relate to development needs (including poverty alleviation and the needs of the most disadvantaged), environmental requirements, and the growing uncertainties on a number of fronts (i.e., climate change, ecosystem services, sustainability, and so forth). As with all things international, state sovereignty plays an important role, despite the fact that transboundary rivers, lakes, and aquifers, in their normal state, ignore national borders, preferring instead the calls of nature. More than three hundred major international watercourses traverse two or more sovereign states, and several important river basin and groundwater systems link entire regions, thus presenting complex challenges. This field of study is enriched by a vast and growing body of literature (from the private and public sectors), including significant contributions by the UN, which has some twenty-seven publications that deal with laws concerning water. However, at the heart of this topic is the practice of states, within and beyond their national borders, since national development policies often are linked to water resources management; consequently, national water law and policy should be reviewed as part of the transboundary watercourses research remit.

Article.  12843 words. 

Subjects: International Law ; International Courts and Tribunals ; Private International Law and Conflict of Laws ; Public International Law

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