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Are stable agreements for sharing international river waters now possible?

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  • Kilgour, D. Marc
  • Dinar, Ariel

Abstract

International river and lake basins constitute about 47 percent of the world's continental land area, a proportion that increases to about 60 percent in Africa, Asia, and South America. Because water is a scarce and increasingly valuable resource, disputes about water allocation within these basins often contribute to regional tensions and conflicts. May principles of international law have been developed to allocate water within a water basin and to prevent or resolve international water disputes. Unfortunately, they rarely are easy to apply and often are contradictory. Sharing river water is particularly difficult because the effects are one-way, with upstream-downstream supply disputes have been among the most common. Agreements about the allocation of river water often last only until the first drought, when reduced flow denies some their full shares. The authors develop a simple formal model of water allocation among states within a river basin. They analyze the model in the context of variable flow rates, to project the behavior of riparian states during periods of above-normal and below-normal flow. Their objective: to understand when, where, and how much the economic interests of the states conflict, to develop principles guaranteeing efficient allocations of scarce water supplies, and to identify when stable (self-enforcing) allocation agreements are possible. They also consider the possibility of using alternative sources of supply and of accommodating growth in demand. Satellite technology will soon dramatically improve the ability of riparian states to predict annual flow volumes. In addition, water basin authorities will have real-time data on riparians'water use. These developments will have important implications for the enforceability and the flexibility of river water allocation systems. This model shows how flexibility can be used to construct more durable systems for sharing water among riparian states. The new allocation methods proposed here should contribute to the better management of scarce water supplies, a crucial issue in an increasingly thirsty world.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 1474.

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Date of creation: 30 Jun 1995
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:1474

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Keywords: Water and Industry; Water Conservation; Environmental Economics&Policies; Water Supply and Systems; Decentralization; Water Supply and Sanitation Governance and Institutions; Town Water Supply and Sanitation; Water Conservation; Water and Industry; Environmental Economics&Policies;

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Cited by:
  1. Erik Ansink & Arjan Ruijs, 2008. "Climate Change and the Stability of Water Allocation Agreements," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 41(2), pages 249-266, October.
  2. Ambec, S. & Sprumont, Y., 2000. "Sharing a River," Cahiers de recherche 2000-08, Centre interuniversitaire de recherche en ├ęconomie quantitative, CIREQ.
  3. Carraro, Carlo & Marchiori, Carmen & Sgobbi, Alessandra, 2005. "Applications of negotiation theory to water issues," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3641, The World Bank.
  4. D. Kilgour & Ariel Dinar, 2001. "Flexible Water Sharing within an International River Basin," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 18(1), pages 43-60, January.
  5. Independent Evaluation Group, 2010. "Water and Development : An Evaluation of World Bank Support, 1997-2007, Volume 1," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 2485, October.
  6. Rene van den Brink & Arantza Estevez-Fernandez & Gerard van der Laan & Nigel Moes, 2011. "Independence Axioms for Water Allocation," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 11-128/1, Tinbergen Institute.
  7. Gerard van der Laan & Nigel Moes, 2012. "Transboundary Externalities and Property Rights: An International River Pollution Model," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 12-006/1, Tinbergen Institute.

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