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Are stable agreements for sharing international river waters now possible?


  • Kilgour, D. Marc
  • Dinar, Ariel


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Kilgour, D. Marc & Dinar, Ariel, 1995. "Are stable agreements for sharing international river waters now possible?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1474, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:1474

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    Cited by:

    1. Carlo Carraro & Carmen Marchiori & Alessandra Sgobbi, 2005. "Applications of Negotiation Theory to Water Issues," Working Papers 2005.65, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
    2. Ambec, Stefan & Sprumont, Yves, 2002. "Sharing a River," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 107(2), pages 453-462, December.
    3. van den Brink, René & van der Laan, Gerard & Moes, Nigel, 2012. "Fair agreements for sharing international rivers with multiple springs and externalities," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 63(3), pages 388-403.
    4. 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.
    5. Guy Meublat, 2001. "La gestion partagée des fleuves internationaux en Afrique," Revue Tiers Monde, Programme National Persée, vol. 42(166), pages 427-453.
    6. D. Kilgour & Ariel Dinar, 2001. "Flexible Water Sharing within an International River Basin," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 18(1), pages 43-60, January.
    7. Cabo, Francisco & Erdlenbruch, Katrin & Tidball, Mabel, 2014. "Dynamic management of water transfer between two interconnected river basins," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 17-38.
    8. Erik Ansink & Arjan Ruijs, 2008. "Climate Change and the Stability of Water Allocation Agreements," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 41(2), pages 249-266, October.
    9. Cabo, Francisco & Tidball, Mabel, 2017. "Promotion of cooperation when benefits come in the future: A water transfer case," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 56-71.
    10. repec:eee:gamebe:v:108:y:2018:i:c:p:182-205 is not listed on IDEAS


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