Water quality in international river basins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The major issue of pollution control in water quality management is too often postponed or neglected in treaties concerning international river basins. Deterioration of transboundary waters cannot be dealt with unilaterally, and is often treated by the affected parties as secondary to the primary goal of economic development, even in settings conducive to high levels of pollution. This frequently results in environmental crises. This paper focuses on the way in which water quality is addressed in seven selected international basin accords. A framework for the structured comparisons of these basins is presented, based on the following four major forces that were found to influence the extent to which pollution issues were encompassed within the accords: flash-points, financial capacities, globalization/regionalization, and political windows of opportunity. The extent to which the above forces were mobilized to influence the water quality aspects of the treaties that have been studied, varies in accordance with: the severity of the water quality problem in relation to the basins' physical and human settings; the level of competitive uses of basin waters; the level of economic development of each riparian and the co-basin states as a whole; the locational setting and political power asymmetry among riparian states; and whether or not the institutions or agreements are basin-wide. The forces identified in this study are meant to provide some guidance to the factors conducive to failure or success.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)437-476
Number of pages40
JournalPolitical Geography
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 1999

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research was funded by the Water Research Institute at the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology during 1994–96, and carried out by Nurit Kliot and Deborah Shmueli of the University of Haifa, and Uri Shamir of the Technion. In the other international basins that were researched—Indus, La Plata, Senegal, Niger, Lake Chad and Tigris–Euphrates, anti-pollution measures have not yet been accorded a significant place within the agreements, economic concerns remaining primary.


  • International river basins
  • Transboundary pollution
  • Water pollution
  • Water quality
  • Water treaties

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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