Institutions for management of transboundary water resources: Their nature, characteristics and shortcomings

N. Kliot, D. Shmueli, U. Shamir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper examines the evolution structure and characteristics of the management systems of 12 transboundary river basins: The Mekong, Indus, Ganges-Brahmaputra, the Nile, Jordan, Danube, Elbe, Rio Grande and Colorado, Rio de la Plata, Senegal and Niger. The paper presents the legal principles which guide the legal regime of the studied rivers, particularly the principle of equitable use of transboundary water resources and the obligation not to cause harm in the management of transboundary water resources. The practice of management in the abovementioned rivers is divided into three categories: (a) Treaties and agreements stopping short of allocating water between riparian states such as free navigation treaties or institutions which were established for a sole purpose such as combating pollution (Elbe, Danube, Rhine). (b) Treaties and agreements allocating water between states (the Indus, Nile, Ganges, Jordan). (c) Agreements for joint management of internationally shared waters (Colorado and Rio Grande, Mekong, Senegal and Niger). Some of the institutions discussed in this paper have evolved only after a long conflict (Indus, Ganges, Jordan) and that there is a danger of adopting institutions for only a portion of a river basin (Mekong, Nile). The success of institutions which were founded on basin-wide joint management lie in their territorial coverage and broad functional frameworks. These institutions also reflect, in the best way, the current legal norms in the management of transboundary water resources.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229-255
Number of pages27
JournalWater Policy
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to express their thanks to the Water Research Institute, the Technion for the financial support of this study.

Funding Information:
The Senegal River Authority (Organisation pour La Mise en valeur de Fleuve Sénégal or OMVS) which manages the Senegal river basin is a genuine active joint-management organization. The organization of the management of that river evolved under the French colonial rule and its main purpose was to regulate the river for navigation. Between 1934 and 1952 the structure in the Senegal called “MAS” collected data and proposed projects to harness the river. Since 1963 the Senegal has been managed by the OMVS in which Guinea, Mali, Mauritania and Senegal are members ( Godana, 1985 ; OMVS, 1988 ). The OMVS was initiated and funded by 14 different donors—Arab Bank, African Development Fund, USAID, EEC, UNDP, the World Bank and others. These agencies provided the technical aid and funding that secured the success of that organization ( Le Marquand, 1986 ; Ibrahim, 1988 ). The influence of these foreign agencies is similar to the impact of such agencies in the development of the Indus Treaty and the Mekong Committee.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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