Managing water resources along the U.S.-Mexico border has been characterized by tension, conflict, and only brief moments of meaningful cooperation. In the face of this polycentric governance system, achieving any form of collaborative water management initiatives has become an enormous challenge. Lack of cooperation toward a cohesive transboundary agreement has led to unilateral takings of groundwater and severe aquifer degradation on both sides of the border. Despite the critical importance of this natural resource, little research has attempted to better understand the complex relationships between the conflicting governance priorities of these two countries. Most analyses of transboundary water governance conceptualize cross-national relations as constituting a single dimension ranging from highly cooperative to highly conflictual. This paper analyzes the historical progression of conflict and cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico over the Rio Grande by utilizing Mirumachi’s “Transboundary Water Interaction NexuS” (TWINS) framework. This framework argues that cooperation and conflict represent separate dimensions such that, in a given transboundary setting, cooperation and conflict can co-exist. By defining cooperation and conflict as representing separate dimensions, by placing cross-national relations on a two-dimensional scale, and by tracking changes in placement over time, this framework allows for an understanding of the simultaneous dynamic influences on cooperation and conflict. This paper will emphasize understanding the ways in which the TWINS approach provides a more complete and accurate picture of U.S.-Mexico transboundary water governance. It will investigate whether and to what extent the TWINS approach can be said to provide new insights into how greater cooperation can be achieved in the management of shared water resources. On both sides of the border, from international NGOs, to nations, states, local municipalities, and unincorporated communities, effective communication, cooperation, and agreement over water issues is highly desirable. The paper’s analysis is based on historical case study research, which relies on contemporaneous accounts and studies of formal and informal interactions between officials from numerous institutions and organizations, including local, regional, national, and international actors and stakeholders. The TWINS framework directs attention to understanding conflict and cooperation at multiple points in time. It suggests that, at any given discrete point in time or a range of times, conflict intensities and cooperation intensities can be distinguished in interactions among actors and stakeholders. Over time, the nature of these intensities can change and vary, which can have important implications for current and future water use and allocation outcomes.
Transboundary water resources are expected be one of the biggest challenges for human development over the next decades. The growing global water scarcity and interdependence among water-sharing countries have created tensions over shared water resources around the world. Therefore, interest in studying transboundary water conflict resolution has grown over the last decades. This research focuses on transboundary water resources conflict resolution mechanisms. A more a specific concern is to explore the mechanisms of allocating of transboundary water resources among riparian states. The literature of transboundary water resources conflict has brought various approaches for allocating of transboundary water resources among riparian countries. Some of these approaches have focused on the negotiation process, such the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). Other approaches have analysed the economic dimension of transboundary water disputes, in an attempt to identify optimal economic criteria for water allocation, such as the “social planner” approach and the “water market” approach. A more comprehensive approach has been provided by game theory that has brought together the economic and political dimensions of the water dispute management. Unfortunately, despite all these efforts, there has been a gap between these theoretical approaches and the techniques used in reality to resolve transboundary conflicts. This study attempts to provide a map for the relation between theory and practice in the field of transboundary water conflict resolution. Therefore, it examines the theoretical approaches that have been suggested in literature as mechanisms of transboundary water conflict resolution. Moreover, it explores the techniques that have been used in resolving real transboundary water disputes. Subsequently, it identifies which of the theoretical approaches proposed by literature have been used in practice to solve transboundary water conflicts, in an attempt to assess the gap between the theory and practice. Finally, the research identifies the reasons behind this gap and provide some recommendations to bridge the theory-practice gap in transboundary water conflict management.
Abstract: The waters of the Silala/Siloli, located in the hyper-arid Atacama Desert dividing Bolivia and Chile, originate in Bolivia, flow for a mere four kilometers before entering Chile, flow for four more kilometers before commingling with the San Pedro tributary and debouch into the Pacific Ocean. And yet this tiny basin, located in one of the most remote and inhospitable places on earth, forms what the U.N. calls one of the most hydropolitically vulnerable basins in the world. Bolivia claims a Chilean concessionaire artificially diverted the waters in 1908, and that Chile now illegally draws from the waters long after Bolivia terminated the concession agreement. Chile claims the waters form a natural transboundary watercourse that would flow as a servitude into Chile even if the waters never had been augmented or directed by the canals. Questions of law and fact blur the legal status of these waters, their possible relationship to a transboundary aquifer, and the customary application of equitable and reasonable use standards regarding a river, if indeed the Silala/Sioli is a river. As the case heads toward The Hague for consideration by the International Court of Justice, this Article concentrates on the evolving relationship between these historically troubled riparians, borrowing from the sociological framework analysis of Erving Goffman to investigate how international dispute settlement mechanisms may indeed be challenged by ceremonial forms of dramaturgy that play more to domestic audiences than pacific settlement outcomes. In the Anthropocene age, acute concerns about fresh water and non-navigable watercourses now have the potential to erupt into major conflicts between states. These conflicts draw critical attention to the evolving relationship between groundwater and surface water regimes, certainly in the great hydrographic basins of the world, and, as this case details, in one of the smallest and most remote
The Nile River, among the world’s most significant waterways, supports the irrigation and hydro-electric power needs of an estimated 200 million people living in the approximately 3,350,000 square kilometer Nile River Basin. Water rights have been a point of extreme contention throughout the region for centuries. The international community has recognized Egypt as the dominant force based on a political and legal foundation built by Great Britain during the colonial era. The unrest in the Nile River Basin throughout past decades is a result of asymmetrical control of the Nile River established by the 1929 and 1959 agreements. The 1929 Water Basin Agreement determined water usage until shifts in the 21st century spurred initiatives to renegotiate the terms of rights to the Nile River.
The 1929 Water Basin Agreement was the first legislative action taken that established any official rights to the Nile. The agreement granted Egypt water rights to almost the entire flow of the river, and further provided the country with legal veto-power over any competing water projects. The impacts of the legislation are analyzed through a political lens, resulting in the conclusion that this agreement established Egyptian de facto sovereignty over the Nile that maintained efficacy as a result of (1) economic and political superiority of both Great Britain and Egypt, (2) reinforcement by the 1959 agreement, and (3) the inability of former colonies to abrogate territorial claims despite succession of state.
Recent shifts in the regional balance of power and straying adherence to the established legislation suggests that Egyptian domination of the Nile may be in decline. Multidimensional analysis investigating the causes of such changes concludes that (1) hydrological uncertainty, (2) rapid population growth, and (3) cyclic Egyptian political instability have forced these shifts in the balance of power throughout the riparian states in the 21st century. These factors are found to be the cause of waning Egyptian dominance because they undercut Egypt’s claim to natural rights based on necessity, a foundation of their justifications for unilateral control of the Nile, and diminish their ability to enforce existing legislation.
Past regional cooperation initiatives have failed because they either did not include all of the riparian states, or were only focused on technological advances without addressing the broader legal framework. Recent cooperation, especially between Ethiopia and Egypt, suggests a promising future for the Nile River Basin, but the region is still vulnerable to political regime change and tensions stemming from conflicting construction and irrigation initiatives. To ensure long term stability, the riparian states need to construct, ratify, and enforce an agreement similar to the CFA, but with unanimous support. All states must agree to adhere to new policies of water allocation that take into consideration changing regional circumstances and water demands in order to draw an end to the Egyptian hydro-hegemony established by the 1929 Water Basin Agreement.