Archive for the ‘Transboundary Rivers’ Category

Governing Shared Watercourses Under Climatic Uncertainty: The Case of the Nile Basin

Wednesday, July 7th, 2021

The following essay by Mahemud Tekuya is a summary of his recently published article (under the same title) in Environmental Law Reporter. Mr. Mahemud is a Ph.D./JSD candidate in International Law and Legal Studies at McGeorge School of Law where his dissertation is supervised by Professor Stephen McCaffrey. He can be reached at mahmudeshetu@gmail.com.

Climate change is projected to have catastrophic impacts on the hydrological cycle. Water availability, quantity, and demand will all be affected by climate change. Even worse, these changes are coming at a time when the sustainability of water resources is severely strained by other non-climatic factors, such as population growth, economic development, and urbanization. All of these factors will decrease water supply or increase demand. Responding to such changes requires building flexibility and adaptability into watercourse treaties.

The GERD from Space
Image of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam from space. Source: NASA/METI/AIST/Japan Space Systems, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team, https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/images/grand-ethiopian-renaissance-dam

This article examines treaty flexibility and climate change adaptation in the context of the Nile Basin, with special emphasis on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).  Ever since commencement of its construction in 2011, the GERD has been a point of serious contention between Ethiopia and its downstream neighbors—Egypt and Sudan.  For Ethiopia, the project is meant to offer a solution to its severe power problem, providing electricity access for an estimated 65 million Ethiopians. Egypt, on the other hand, relies on the Blue Nile for 60% of its freshwater, and maintains that the dam represents an existential threat, although it endorsed the importance of the dam in 2015 signing an agreement on the Declaration of Principles with Ethiopia and Sudan.  For its part, Sudan had to balance its concerns about water supply with the dam’s benefits, including a more regular flow of water, better siltation prevention, a reduction in evaporation, and cheaper electricity. In a historic break with its past practice of moving in lockstep with Egypt, and until recently, Sudan showed unwavering support for the GERD since 2012. In the past few months, however, it again firmed up on its opposition to the Dam.

To be sure, the dispute over the GERD is the focus of a voluminous body of academic literature. Legal scholars, political scientists and engineers, and hydrologic experts have exerted much effort during the last decade on the GERD dispute. Relatively little attention, however, has been directed to scrutinizing how the GERD should be governed in the face of climate change.  This is especially problematic as the ramifications of climate change on Nile water resources—in particular regarding future rainfall, river flow, and water availability—are bringing a new dimension to the GERD dispute.

Although there is no certainty in projections, most studies and climate change models are commonly predicting increases in average annual temperature, leading to greater losses of water due to evaporation. There is much less certainty in projections concerning future rainfall, river flow, and water availability. Regarding the latter issues, studies find contradictory results; some predict floods and increased runoff, while others predict water scarcity and possible droughts. It seems evident that proper governance of the GERD in the face of these uncertainties demands a response to two contradictory scenarios, either increase in water availability and flooding or water scarcity and drought; each of which requires opposite adaptation strategies. If climate change reduces the available water in the Nile Basin, competition for water between Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt will only intensify, possibly leading to conflict. If the available water resources increase due to climate change, this will create a need for new legal responses to flooding. In either case, flexible legal arrangements governing the GERD will be crucial to adapt to climate change.

Part I of the article introduces the mechanisms that can provide flexibility in watercourse treaties; it reviews the practice of various water-sharing countries and encapsulates the principal ways of building a climate-proof treaty. Part II analyzes treaty flexibility in the Nile Basin and probes the intrinsic capacity of the 1959 Nile Treaty between Egypt and Sudan, and the 2010 Cooperative Framework Agreement. Part III specifically addresses whether the Declaration of Principles contemplates a flexible legal arrangement for governing the GERD under climatic uncertainty. After answering in the affirmative, this part also proposes a flexible basin wide treaty capable of accommodating the ramifications of climate change, and an institutional mechanism for coordinated operation dams in the Nile Basin. Part IV provides concluding remarks, which call upon Nile Basin States and other water-sharing States to set aside their egoistic national interests and address the ramifications of climate change by developing flexible and climate-proof treaties.

The full article is available via the Environmental Law Reporter website.

Sink or Swim: Alternatives for Unlocking the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Dispute

Monday, March 22nd, 2021

The following essay by Mahemud Tekuya is a summary of his recently published article (under the same title) in the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law. Mr. Mahemud is a Ph.D./JSD candidate in International Law and Legal Studies at McGeorge School of Law under the supervision of Professor Stephen McCaffrey. He can be reached at mahmudeshetu@gmail.com.

For the past five years, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt have negotiated the filling and annual operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (“GERD”), but failed to strike a deal acceptable to them all.   In August 2019, Egypt submitted proposals on the filling and operation of the dam and later effectively internationalized the GERD negotiations by involving the United States government and the World Bank as observers. The three states then held meetings with the United States Department of Treasury and the World Bank’s representatives in both Africa and Washington, D.C.

The Washington talks, which at first were progressing well, took a turn for the worse in January, resulting in a stalemate. The United States, evidently going beyond its status as an observer in the talks, proposed an agreement that Ethiopia considered adverse to its national interest. Ethiopia rejected the proposal and withdrew from the final meeting.  The U.S. Department of the Treasury requested that Ethiopia sign the proposed agreement and cautioned Ethiopia to refrain from testing and filling the GERD without an agreement with Egypt and Sudan.  Ethiopia expressed its disappointment with the statement and announced that it would proceed with filling the reservoir in parallel with the construction of the dam as agreed to in the Declaration of Principles (DoP) that the parties signed in March 2015.  Egypt, on the other hand, signed the United States proposal and vowed to protect its interests in the Nile River “by all available means.”

The Nile River Basin. Source: Nile Basin Initiative

Although disguised in talks over the GERD’s filling and operation, the current tension between Ethiopia and Egypt is principally related to their longstanding disagreement over the validity of the 1902 Anglo-Ethiopian Treaty, the 1929 Anglo-Egyptian Treaty, and the 1959 Nile Treaty between Egypt and Sudan (collectively, the “colonial Nile Waters Treaties”). This disagreement—which reached an apex during the negotiations of the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA)—is adversely adversely impacting the GERD negotiations.

This article analyzes the implications of the colonial Nile Waters Treaties for the ongoing GERD dispute between Ethiopia and Egypt.  The negotiations over the filling and operation of the GERD are the focus of a voluminous body of academic literature.  Political scientists have extensively studied the hydro-hegemonic implications of the GERD in their effort to determine “who gets how much [of the Nile] water, when, where, and why?”  Other scholars have addressed whether the GERD will be a source of conflict or a catalyst for cooperation. Engineers and hydrologic experts studied the GERD’s positive and adverse effects and proposed various scenarios for the filling and operation of the dam.  Legal scholars have explored some of the substantive issues concerning the legal developments in the GERD dispute, including the DoP.  What the academic discourse regarding the GERD lacks, however, is a detailed study analyzing the ramifications of the colonial Nile Waters Treaties on the GERD negotiations, the legitimacy of the United States’ role in the GERD negotiations, the U.S. Treasury statement vis-à-vis international law, and solutions for resolving the GERD dispute.

This article intends to fill these gaps in the scholastic discourse on the GERD negotiations. The first part of the article briefly introduces the disputes over the colonial Nile Water Treaties as well as the context for the fragmented legal regime that currently governs the Nile Basin.  It also addresses the interplay between the colonial Nile Waters Treaties and the DoP and submits that the latter does not abrogate the former.  Part II analyzes the implications of the Nile Water Treaties for the post-DoP talks on the filling and operation of the GERD.  It discusses the justifications for the involvement of the United States and the World Bank, and explores recent sticking points in the GERD talks. Part III examines whether—as the U.S. Treasury has suggested—a preliminary agreement is required to fill and test the GERD.  It further probes the legitimacy under international law of the United States’ involvement in the GERD. Part IV explores alternatives for resolving the GERD dispute, such as negotiation, mediation, and judicial settlement.  Finally, the article offers its concluding remarks and a call for Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan to, inter alia, stop approaching the Nile watercourse as a zero-sum game and cooperate for their mutual benefit.

The full article can be accessed here.

The Ilisu Dam and its Impact on the Mesopotamian Marshes of Iraq: Implications for the Future Directions of International Water Law

Wednesday, January 27th, 2021

The following essay by Raquella Thaman is a summary of her recently published monograph (under the same title), which appears in Brill Research Perspectives in International Water Law.  Ms. Thaman is an attorney and teacher in California. She can be reached at r_thaman @ u.pacific.edu.

The fate of the Mesopotamian Marshes of Iraq provides us with a case study on the functional deficits of the existing body of international water law in managing conflict over transboundary watercourses. This monograph argues that international collaboration over transboundary watercourses is imperative for maintaining peace and stability and should force us into thinking of new ways to address these newly emerging and growing challenges in the field.

Water is a transient and finite resource. Moving through the hydrologic cycle, each molecule may find its way from a transboundary watercourse on one continent to a municipal water supply on another, and then back again. It is often said that every drop we drink has already been consumed by one life form or another.

The Hydrologic or Water Cycle.
Source: U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

One of the more perilous side effects of climate change is its threat to the water supply of hundreds of millions of people. In many regions the seasonal absence of rain has historically been compensated for by meltwater from glaciers and winter snowpack across international borders in distant mountain ranges. When these glaciers disappear, so will the water supply during the dry season.

As these pressures increase, the need for effective legal regimes to address the sharing of transboundary watercourses likewise increases. In some cases, the existing law governing the utilization of this ephemeral resource has proven inadequate to prevent conflict and ensure access to water and its benefits for people and ecosystems no matter where they lie along the length of the watercourse.

The history and ecology of the Tigris-Euphrates Basin, and the issues surrounding Turkey’s recent impoundment of water behind the Ilisu Dam on the Tigris, provide an example highlighting such challenges. While the need for collaborative approaches to sharing transboundary watercourses is evident, barriers to such collaboration are complex and sometimes deeply entrenched. Additionally, the responsibility of the international community for helping at risk communities maintain access to adequate water supplies cannot be overlooked.

The first few chapters of the monograph set forth the context of the problem. Chapter one briefly introduces the hydrologic cycle and current state of Earth’s ecological systems underlying the need for new developments in international water law. The second chapter is an overview of the Tigris-Euphrates river basin including its hydro-geography, climate and early history of water use. The third chapter describes the significance of the Mesopotamian Marshes themselves as a harbinger for the well-being of the people of Iraq. The fourth chapter examines the water projects that affect the Tigris-Euphrates Basin including controversy surrounding Turkey’s most recent filling of the Ilisu dam and the flooding of Hasankeyf.

Map of Iraq with the Tigris and Euphrates River Basins.
Source: Library of Congress

Chapter five of the monograph outlines the law governing the Tigris-Euphrates Basin. The stance of the Tigris-Euphrates Basin states and their seeming embrace of outdated and conflicting approaches to resource allocation are examined.  Existing agreements between the states, both colonial era and post-WWII, and the application of the UN Watercourses Convention are then examined. Finally, other approaches to managing conflict over ecological conditions are examined including a brief analysis of the Rhine Salt Case and the human right to water recognized by the UN General Assembly in 2010.

Chapter six discusses the topic of collaborative water management using the illustrative example of the Senegal River Basin. Three examples of conflict over transboundary watercourses, one historical and two current, are then provided in order to illuminate some of the barriers to collaboration. The first is a nineteenth century dispute between the United States and Mexico over the water of the Rio Grande, which resulted in the production of the Harmon Doctrine. The second provides an example of upstream hydro-hegemony in an overview of the problems arising from China’s development of the upper Mekong River and its impact on those living in the lower Mekong Basin. The third example outlines the problem of downstream hydro-hegemony in the dispute between Ethiopia and Egypt, its downstream neighbor on the Nile, over the building of Ethiopia’s Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

In conclusion, the need for concerted global intervention to maintain the livability of Earth and increase resilience in the face of the rapidly changing availability of resources will be explored and the clear need for a unified collaborative approach to such intervention reiterated.

The monograph is dedicated to Ms. Fadia Daibes Murad (1966-2009); in recognition of the courage, rigor, and dynamic intellect with which she advocated both for fairness in access to water resources and for gender equity in Palestine and the Middle East.

You can access the monograph here.

Adapting Watercourse Agreements to Developments in International Law: The Case of the Itaipu Treaty

Tuesday, April 16th, 2019

The following essay by Dr. Maria A. Gwynn is a summary of her recently published monograph (under the same title), which appears in Vol. 4(1) 2019, of Brill Research Perspectives in International Water Law.  Dr. Maria A. Gwynn is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Public International Law of the University of Bonn, and conducted most of the research contained in this monograph while she was an Oxford-Princeton Global Leaders Fellow at Princeton University and at the University of Oxford. She can be reached at maria.gwynn [at] uni-bonn.de.

 

The UN Convention on the non-navigational uses of international watercourses recommends that states adapt their existing bilateral and regional agreements to the provisions of the Convention to promote equitable and reasonable uses of watercourses. This monograph assesses the practical consequences of this provision, and the prospects for achieving sustainable development with such action, and uses the Itaipu Treaty as a case study.

The Parana River

The Itaipu Treaty, which was signed and ratified by Brazil and Paraguay in 1973 and continues to be in force today, was established so that these two countries would jointly pursue the advantages that could be obtained from the exploitation of the Parana River to

The former Guaira Falls

produce hydropower through the construction of a dam. The Parana River is an international watercourse on the South American continent sourced by the La Plata basin. The dam was constructed at the river’s most powerful point, the Guaira Falls, formerly the greatest set of waterfalls on the South American continent, which disappeared after the construction of the dam.

The river’s great resources were not underestimated. Today, the sheer amount of energy that the Itaipu Dam produces has placed both countries among the largest producers of clean and renewable energy in the world. However, while Brazil consumes its entire share of the energy produced, Paraguay (whose available share of energy from the hydropower facilities far exceeds its own domestic energy demands) only consumes a small part of this clean and renewable energy source. Paraguay, instead, continues to use biomass sources (burning of coal and wood) to satisfy most of its energy needs. Under the Itaipu Treaty, Paraguay sells its unused allotment of energy to Brazil.In general, the Itaipu Treaty regulates the use and consumption of hydropower produced by the dam, making the provisions of the treaty very pertinent to understanding the two countries’ energy policies.

The Itaipu Dam and Reservoir

The Itaipu Treaty entered into force before the United Nations International Law Commission had finished its task of evaluating the international law and customs on the non-navigational uses of international watercourses, embodied in the UN Watercourses Convention, and before some of the major developments concerning international environmental law came about. However, the Itaipu

Treaty contains a renegotiation provision, according to which the two states must renegotiate some of its provisions 50 years following the conclusion of the treaty, i.e. in the upcoming year 2023. The monograph argues that this is a great opportunity for both countries to adapt their watercourse agreements to the current standard and principles of international law.

The monograph provides a detailed assessment of the advantages of adapting watercourse agreements to the standard and principles of all pertinent areas of international law, such as international water law, international environmental law, and climate change law. The first part of the monograph begins with an analysis of the initial approaches to the law of international watercourses in the first half of the twentieth century. It discusses some of the main principles of the law governing international watercourses and the work of pertinent institutions concerned with this area. In this sense, the first part of the monograph describes the status of the law on international watercourses at the time when the Itaipu project was first pursued.

Signing the Acta de Yguazu Agreement in 1966

The second part of the monograph discusses the Itaipu project in its legal and historical context. An analysis of the principles of consultation and notification for projects on international watercourses are particularly instructive. The monograph describes the relevance of the role of Paraguay, which despite being a main treaty party, has often been neglected in the scholarship.  The monograph shows how escalation of disputes to an international conflict regarding sovereignty was eased by benefit sharing agreements and inter-state cooperation of the countries of the La Plata basin. The monograph also offers a comparative analysis to similar cooperation and benefit sharing agreements signed at about the same time in other parts of the world.

The Itaipu Agreement

The third part of the monograph describes the advances in the law of international watercourses and of environmental law since the 1970s, and places the implementation of the Itaipu Treaty, which in turn is analyzed in the fourth part of the monograph, within this context. The fifth part of the monograph describes recent disputes concerning the non-navigational uses of international watercourses decided by the International Court of Justice in an analysis that connects the decisions of such judgments with the monograph’s object of study.

The monograph concludes by highlighting how the treaty provisions and their implementation could be affected by the developments in international law and the UN Watercourses Convention in particular. It argues that adapting watercourses agreements like the Itaipu Treaty to the provisions of the Convention is a way to foster

The UN Sustainable Development Goals

sustainable development. Doing so would be advantageous not only to the treaty parties, but also to the other countries in the water basin and to the international community as a whole.

The monograph is dedicated to the memory of Prof. Dr. Efrain Cardozo (1906-1973) and to Prof. Dr. Ruben Ramirez Pane (1920-2004).

The entire article is available here.

 

Shared Watercourses and Water Security in South Asia: Challenges of Negotiating and Enforcing Treaties

Monday, August 27th, 2018

The following essay by Drs. Salman M. A. Salman and Kishor Uprety is a summary of their recently published monograph (under the same title), which appears in Vol. 3(3) 2018, pp. 1-100, of Brill Research Perspectives in International Water Law.  Dr. Salman is an academic researcher and consultant on water law and policy and Editor-in-Chief of Brill Research Perspectives, International Water Law. He can be reached at SalmanMASalman [at] gmail.com. Dr. Uprety is Senior Lawyer with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and an Associate Editor of Brill Research Perspectives, International Water Law. He can be reached at Dr.kishoruprety [at] gmail.com.

 

A large number of rivers in the South Asia region are shared across borders. Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal and Pakistan share more than two dozen major rivers. Conflicting claims over those transboundary watercourses is a major security challenge in the region. Indeed, shared watercourses have influenced South Asia’s geography and history, as well as riparians’ responses to the challenges of utilizing, managing, and protecting such water bodies. Because of scarcity, population growth, and climate change impacts, national calls for water security have become louder and more intense in each of these countries. Consequently, collaboration among the countries of South Asia for ensuring equitable sharing of such watercourses has not been optimal.

Map of South Asia's shared watercourses

Map of South Asia’s shared watercourses

In addition, other factors such as information sharing and lack of trust has exacerbated the differences. While most countries do not have reliable systems for data generation, those possessing some hydrological data consider them state secrets, restricting their exchange. Even when treaty obligations exist, data-sharing practices are ad hoc, and the range of information shared is limited. Thus, negotiating new transboundary water treaties amongst the South Asia countries has become a daunting task, and enforcing existing ones remains a real challenge.

With the above constraints in the background, the monograph provides an overview of the notion of water security in South Asia, and discusses the challenges as well as the opportunities for establishing governance frameworks for shared watercourses in the region.

The introduction of the monograph begins with an analysis of the concept of water security, and how the concept emerged and spread as a world-wide and complex phenomenon. It also discusses the challenges the concept imposes in designing and implementing governance regimes for shared watercourses. To further set the stage and focus, and to establish a better appreciation of the challenges, the introduction then discusses the geopolitical setting of the region.

The first part of the monograph starts by discussing the treaty practices in South Asia regarding their shared watercourses. Each instrument is presented as a unique document and effort, finalized after lengthy negotiations with each of the riparians’ specific objectives, interests and strategies in mind. In that context, the monograph reviews the regimes for shared watercourses already in force, as well as those that are under discussion and consideration.

The Indus and the Ganges river basins are the two regimes that are currently in force. The discussion of the Indus Basin regime focuses on the historical background and the complexities involved in the unusually long process of the treaty negotiations. The discussion involves the role of the World Bank, which provided its good offices to the parties, and the reasons for success of the Bank’s intervention. This is followed by an analysis of the treaty provisions, particularly its unique dispute resolution mechanisms. In this context, the monograph also discusses the several cases of “differences” and “disputes” that have emerged between the two riparian parties─India and Pakistan─and analyzes how the treaty provisions facilitated their resolution. This part of the monograph also elaborates and critiques the role of the World Bank in the dispute resolution process.

The second regime in force discussed in the monograph relates to the Ganges Basin, including some of its tributaries. Several treaties have been concluded for the governance of the Basin. The monograph reviews and analyzes each of them, including the history of the negotiations and the main provisions of each treaty, with a critical analysis of implementation.

The discussion also covers the efforts in South Asia, which have been ongoing for several decades, to establish regimes to govern some other important shared watercourses. Negotiations amongst the riparian countries on these basins have been difficult and the outcomes have been poor. In this context, the monograph reviews the regimes pertaining to the Teesta and the Brahmaputra basins, and highlights the difficulties that have emerged.

The subsequent part of the monograph deals with the 1997 UN Watercourses Convention. It focuses on the position of each of the South Asian countries vis-a-vis the Convention, which, interestingly, none has become a party to. The monograph discusses the reasons for such positions, and analyzes the countries’ malaise, as well as their specific concerns regarding the Convention.

The conclusion of the monograph recapitulates and highlights the main problematic situations of South Asia’s shared watercourses and analyzes the prospects for addressing them. In so doing, the conclusion provides some concrete suggestions derived from experiences in other countries and shared basins. The conclusion also includes some recommendations that can assist in enhancing cooperation, mutual trust and understanding amongst the South Asia riparians, and strengthening and consolidating of their achievements on their shared watercourses.

The monograph is dedicated “To the memory of Professor Charles B. Bourne (1921 – 2012); one of the pioneers and innovators in the field of international water law.”

The entire article is available here.

 

Mexico-U.S. Cooperation on the Colorado: Prioritizing Sustainability Under Minute 323

Monday, January 15th, 2018

The following essay is by Regina M. Buono and Jill Baggerman. Buono is a Non-resident Scholar at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and a doctoral student at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. She can be reached at regina.buono [at] utexas.edu. Baggerman is a fellow with the Robert Strauss Center for International Security and Law and the J.J. “Jake” Pickle Scholarship Program and is a graduate student at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. She can be reached at kjmbaggerman [at] gmail.com.

 

Despite oft-seen headlines about “the wall,” immigration, and uncomfortable relations between the United States and Mexico, the countries continue to develop advanced cooperative strategies for governance and management of the Colorado River. On September 27, 2017, representatives from the U.S. and Mexico signed Minute 323, a new agreement under the 1944 Treaty governing the river, which is intended to create a more secure water future for Colorado River water users and support additional environmental restoration projects. The agreement is the product of longstanding collaborative efforts by environmental NGOs, water agencies, and governmental representatives from both countries and is designed as a successor to Minute 319, signed in 2012. Minute 319 created temporary measures to share shortages and surpluses between the parties, and provided a massive, experimental pulse flow to rejuvenate the Colorado Delta. (See here and here).

In a nutshell, Minute 323 authorizes mutually advantageous options to give the parties flexibility and facilitate longer-term planning of water storage and distribution under variable climate conditions. It provides for substantial investment in conservation projects in Mexico in exchange for additional water allocations to the U.S.  Some of the more prominent stratagems of the plan are described below.

Minute 323 delineates procedures for coordinating approaches to operating under specified tiers of high- and low-elevation reservoir conditions, allowing the parties to take advantage of wet times and avoid triggering shortages in dryer periods. This increases certainty for each nation in managing water demands, and provides for agreement on the provenance and communication of information regarding environmental conditions. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s August 24-Month Study will be used to project the January 1 elevation of Lake Mead, thereby determining yearly basin-wide allotments. The agreement also establishes the Binational Water Scarcity Contingency Plan in which Mexico agrees to join the U.S. states in temporarily taking less water from Lake Mead in order to avoid future shortages. Implementation of the plan is contingent on completion of the drought contingency plan being developed by the lower basin states.

Building on the successes of Minute 319, Minute 323 also enhances Mexico’s ability to store its allotments in U.S. reservoirs according to three categories of reserves: “Emergency Storage,” a “Revolving Account,” and the Intentionally Created Mexican Allocation (ICMA). The agreement extends Mexico’s ability to defer any part of its water delivery when the act of responding to an emergency—such as an earthquake—limits its ability to use an allotment. The Emergency Storage, along with the Revolving Account (which includes water previously deferred under Minutes 318 and 319) and ICMA (water Mexico may defer based on conservation efficiencies or new water sources that decrease demand for Colorado River water), constitutes “Mexico’s Water Reserve.”

International Boundary and Water Commission Commissioners announce signing of a new Colorado River agreement, Minute 323 on September 27, 2017. Photo by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, available at https://www.flickr.com/photos/usbr/23522391918/in/photostream/, and used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.

Commissioners Roberto Salmon (left) and Edward Drusina of the Mexico-U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission Commissioners announce signing of a new Colorado River agreement, Minute 323 on September 27, 2017. Photo by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation; Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license (https://www.flickr.com/photos/usbr/23522391918/in/photostream/).

Minute 323 provides a number of rules to structure and facilitate sustainable management of these reserves, including limitation on total annual deliveries and provisions for evaporation losses. Reserves are to be delivered when needed unless Lake Mead is at low-elevation conditions or the timing would affect the January 1 elevation projection. Mexico may use its reserves for any purpose; may create a reserve of up to 250,000 acre-feet (AF) through December 31, 2026; and may withdraw up to 200,000 AF annually. Of water stored as ICMA, 2% is reserved for environmental purposes in Mexico. Minute 323 defines precise institutional procedures for when and how relevant agencies will manage the accounting records and release water deliveries. Storage and release procedures are based on the projected elevation of Lake Mead, meaning that environmental conditions and a recognized need for accurate evaluation and understanding of those conditions remain at the forefront of the agreement.

Minute 323 addresses a number of other issues benefiting both nations but of particular concern to Mexico. The agreement lists tasks for the Binational Salinity Work Group to achieve over the next two years, including the modernization of salinity monitoring equipment and automatic reporting tools. The agreement also addresses Mexico’s concerns about daily flow variabilities by creating the Binational Flow Variability Work Group, tasked with a pilot program to use existing storage capacity at Morelos Dam to reduce variability.

U.S. water agencies pledged to invest $31.5M in water efficiency projects in Mexico in exchange for an additional 109,100 AF in water allotments. Water savings generated by these projects will accrue to Mexico, except for allotments exchanged to the U.S. and specified allotments for the environment and system water. The water transferred to the U.S. will reduce pressure on the lower basin U.S. states as they attempt to meet increasing water demands. As with Mexico’s Water Reserve, the agreement coordinates institutional procedures for how the parties will conduct the exchange proportionally and simultaneously through 2026.

Seeking to leverage the success of Minute 319’s “pulse-flow”, Minute 323 includes provisions for the environment, particularly the river delta. The parties renewed their commitment to the environment by agreeing to partner with a binational coalition of NGOs to generate 210,000 AF of water for environmental purposes in Mexico, and pledging millions of dollars to fund scientific research, monitoring, and restoration projects. Mexico will also provide water for continued habitat restoration and scientific monitoring in the delta through 2026.

In sum, Minute 323 is an encouraging development for management of the river. The agreement provides Mexico and the U.S. with additional procedures and resources required to meet environmental and user demands for Colorado River water. Mexico benefits from increased flexibility regarding management of its reserves, as well as improved rules on flow variability and funds for conservation projects. The lower basin states also substantially benefit from the water transfers, which will lessen demand pressure throughout the system. The formal involvement of NGOs at the negotiating table increases the institutional capacity of both nations, creating incentives and synergies to facilitate conservation projects. The agreement is an indication that relations over the Colorado River continue to be strong and cooperative, are supported by well-developed institutions and active stakeholder participation, and increasingly focus on environmental sustainability and mutually advantageous solutions. Minute 323 advances each of these objectives, demonstrating that both nations continue to negotiate in good faith, even while the broader relationship becomes strained.

 

Disputes over International Watercourses: Can River Basin Organizations make a Difference?

Friday, July 21st, 2017

The following essay by Sabine Blumstein and Susanne Schmeier is a summary of a recently published book chapter titled “Disputes Over International Watercourses: Can River Basin Organizations make a Difference?”. Ms. Blumstein works as a Project Manager at adelphi. Ms. Schmeier is Coordinator for Transboundary Water Management at the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). They can be contacted at: blumstein[at]adelphi.de.

 

Book coverDisagreements or even full-fledged disputes over the use of water resources in shared basins have increasingly made headlines in the past years. Developments in the Mekong, Nile, Syr Darya, Indus and other basins have led more and more scholars, as well as policy-makers and journalists, to warn of the risk of water conflicts or even wars. This revives – albeit in a more informed manner – the water wars debate of the early 1990s. While much progress has been made since then – especially through the creation and institutionalization of cooperative arrangements in many shared basins – disputes nonetheless continue to occur. And they do occur even in basins with River Basin Organizations (RBOs) in place, which have often been set up to solve, mitigate or prevent such disputes.

However, research on transboundary river basin management as well as empirical evidence from basins around the world suggest that RBOs do make a difference. They provide a variety of direct and indirect mechanisms for dispute resolution, as discussed in a recently published chapter which appeared in “Management of Transboundary Water Resources under Scarcity. A Multidisciplinary Approach”. In this chapter, the authors shed light on how RBOs engage in the solution of disputes that arise over water resources in transboundary basins. And they show that it is not dispute-resolution mechanisms in the narrow sense – often identified as the key if not the only instruments RBOs provide – that make a difference in whether a conflict is solved peacefully in a cooperative manner. Instead, it is the broader cooperative framework of RBOs that matters.

The authors review existing dispute resolution mechanisms of international RBOs around the world in a comprehensive manner. Their research indicates that more than 50% of the 121 analyzed RBOs have a dispute resolution mechanism in place – seemingly a good starting point. Among those, they identify three broader categories of RBO dispute resolution mechanisms: bilateral negotiations between those RBO members involved in a disagreement; RBO-internal mechanisms; and external actors’ involvement. Often, states have opted to establish more than one step in the respective dispute-resolution mechanism, structuring the processes in two instances with different mechanisms to be applied. For instance, bilateral negotiation between disputing parties (facilitated by the RBO) are often followed by a possible engagement of external actors – both 3rd party mediators and judicial ones.

The authors also provide explanations for why dispute resolution mechanisms vary around the world (in terms of existence in the first place, but also in design). Often, it is the history of cooperation (also beyond the water sector) that determines both the existence as well as the exact design of dispute resolution mechanisms. The high share of dispute resolution mechanisms in African RBOs, for example, can be explained by the past conflicts found in many African basins as well as the high presence of international donors, which often consider well-defined dispute-resolution mechanisms as a prerequisite for successful cooperation. In Europe, on the other hand, the existence of cooperation mechanisms (including specific instruments for solving disputes) in many issue-areas has limited the need for well-defined dispute resolution mechanisms within specific basins and RBOs.

Regional distribution of dispute-resolution mechanisms in RBOs

    Regional distribution of dispute-resolution mechanisms in RBOs

In the second part of the chapter, the authors analyze two conflicts in greater detail in order to shed more light on how exactly RBOs make a difference in solving or mitigating disputes in shared basins. For the Mekong River Basin, they find that while the Mekong River Commission’s (MRC) dispute resolution mechanisms themselves (see Art. 34 and 35 of the 1995 Mekong Agreement) might seem insufficient for addressing issues as complex as recent hydropower developments and related inter-state conflicts, the MRC provides ample other tools for ensuring that such disputes get addressed in a cooperative manner and on the basis of comprehensive technical data and information. Although having been criticized by many scholars, the MRC’s Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA) and the processes established around them (e.g. the identification of environmental and socioeconomic baselines, the establishment of guidelines for impact mitigation, etc.) have ensured that disagreements have been handled in a rather cooperative manner. This is particularly obvious if compared to similar situations of unilateral hydropower development in other basins around the world.

For the Nile River Basin, the authors find that the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) did not directly contribute to diplomatic negotiations or any other form of direct resolution of the conflict around the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which can partly be explained by the absence of any NBI dispute resolution mechanism. In addition, the lack of any notification mechanism or requirement to exchange data/information on planned infrastructure measures which could potentially impact downstream countries, prevented the NBI to play any significant role in averting the dispute in the first place. Despite this limited role in conflict prevention and direct diplomatic engagement, NBI played an important role in defusing the conflict through broader activities around data and information sharing and increasingly distributing this knowledge to the broader public. The RBO’s activities regarding knowledge distribution and more neutral reporting through national media is an important contribution to de-securitize national discourses around the construction of GERD and hence a precondition for any final resolution of the dispute.

While the findings reveal that the existence of specific dispute resolution mechanisms in a narrow sense does not necessarily influence the success of dispute resolution and depends on a number of other intervening factors, RBOs as a whole do matter in 2addressing water-related conflicts. This is because RBOs provide a range of instruments beyond pure dispute resolution mechanisms: amongst others, they provide platforms for negotiation and exchange, data and information exchange or notification procedures. These instruments are of key importance to solve, contain or even prevent conflicts. Water practitioners and policy actors should therefore not exclusively focus on the specific dispute resolution mechanisms provided by RBOs but be aware of and actively use the broader repertoire of governance instruments provided by RBOs to avoid and solve evolving disputes in transboundary river basins.

 

The Fairness ‘Dilemma’ in Sharing the Nile Waters: What Lessons from the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam for International Law?

Friday, June 30th, 2017

The following essay by Dr. Zeray Yihdego is a summary of his recently published monograph (under the same title), which appears in Vol. 2.2, 2017, pp. 1-80, of Brill Research Perspectives in International Water Law. Dr. Yihdego is a Reader in public international law at the School of Law, University of Aberdeen. He can be reached at zeray.yihdego [at] abdn.ac.uk.

The Nile, the longest River in the world, is shared by eleven riparian states, including Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan and Ethiopia.  Ethiopia contributes about 86% of the Nile waters, while Egypt (and to a certain extent Sudan) rightly or arbitrarily use most of the waters. Rightly because the climate and dependency of the two downstream countries on the Nile may be used to justify their historic or existing (lion) share. Arbitrary because other riparian states with millions of people who live within the basin are denied their equitable share of Nile water resources and socio-economic development needs. The construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) by Ethiopia on the Blue Nile is justified by Ethiopia based on equitable utilisation and crucial development needs, while questioned (until March 2015) by Egypt as a threat to its ‘historic’ water use rights.

This monograph articulates the key arguments and messages of enquiring into the fairness dilemma in connection with the construction, reservoir filling, and to some extent, future operation of the GERD, in light of relevant colonial-era Nile treaties, post-1990 Nile framework instruments, and international water law.

Nile_Map_UpdatedAfter providing factual, political and historical context to the GERD case in the Introduction, the monograph sets out the theoretical and normative framework around Thomas Franck’s fairness principle, and international water law (IWL), as primarily featured in the 1997 United Nations Watercourses Convention (UNWC). Franck’s theory of fairness uses procedural legitimacy (or right process) and distributive justice as two fundamental features of fairness.  These are supported by the rejection of making absolute claims and the possibility of accommodating inequality among states, as caveats to the fairness principle. It is argued that IWL, in general, and the UNWC provide rules and principles that specifically fit into the principle of fairness in all its aspects, although there is no evidence to suggest that inequality is tolerated or promoted in international (water) law.

Given that none of the Nile basin states is a party to the UNWC, and notwithstanding the relevance and application of customary international water law to the GERD, the monograph resorts to dealing with the Nile Basin Initiative and the Nile Basin Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA), and argues that the CFA, either as a treaty regime or a codification of customary watercourses law, represents an emerging Nile basin legal framework with a potential to addressing questions of fairness in the basin. As the CFA has not entered into force and Egypt and Sudan do not constitute part of the process, however, the fairness of the GERD cannot be judged form the CFA perspective.

Following a thorough investigation of the fairness of the 1902 Nile Treaty, the 1993 Ethio–Egyptian Framework instrument, and the tripartite Declaration of Principles (DoPs) on the GERD signed by Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt in March 2015, the monograph submits that the 1902 and 1993 instruments do not provide a fair content and system for the concerned parties, albeit for different reasons. While the 1902 Nile Treaty is inherently arbitrary, and thus not compatible with the notion of fairness, the 1993 instrument incorporated modern principles of IWL, but not sufficiently, and lacks specificity of rights and duties of the two countries.  In contrast, the DoPs is founded on the globally accepted principles and rules of IWL and has

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

embraced both relevant content and legitimate process. The content of the DoPs includes the adoption of equitable utilisation and no significant harm principles. Similarly, the process agreed to in the DoPs includes the duty to exchange data and information, establishment of a National Technical Committee, the use of foreign consultancy firms and the use and endorsement of the work of an International Panel of Experts (IPoE).  All these, although not without challenges, have been negotiated in good faith, with equal participation of all concerned.

Based on this analysis, the monograph submits that:  the GERD is a symbol of a fair share of the Nile waters, the realization of which depends on, inter alia, an appropriate economic return and prevention of significant impacts; although application of the fairness principle can be complex, the notions of procedural fairness and distributive justice can be applied to define and delineate the principle with reference to a specific treaty regime; despite historical or existing injustice, a fair share of natural resources can bring sustainable and durable peace in inter-state relations.

The entire article is available here.

 

The Nile Basin Cooperative Framework Agreement: The Impasse is Breakable!

Monday, June 19th, 2017

The following post is by Dr. Salman M.A. Salman, an academic researcher and consultant on water law and policy and Editor-in-Chief of Brill Research Perspectives, International Water Law. Until 2009, Dr. Salman served as Lead Council and Water Law Adviser for the World Bank. He can be reached at SalmanMASalman [at] gmail.com.

A summit of the head of states of the Nile Basin countries is planned for June 22, 2017, in Entebbe, Uganda, to discuss the impasse over the Nile Basin Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA). The summit is to be preceded by a meeting of the ministers of foreign affairs of the Nile countries on June 20 – 21, 2017. The purpose of this Note is to clarify the differences over the CFA, and to propose a roadmap for resolving these differences.

The CFA and the Differences Thereon

The Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) was born on February 22, 1999, in Dar-es-Salam, Tanzania, following the signing of the minutes of the meeting by nine of the Nile ministers of water resources in attendance. The NBI was facilitated by a number of donors led by the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The NBI was established as a transitional arrangement to foster cooperation and sustainable development of the Nile River for the benefit of the inhabitants of those countries. The NBI is guided by a shared vision “to achieve sustainable socio-economic development through equitable utilization of, and benefit from, the common Nile Basin water resources.”

Work started immediately on the CFA, and lasted ten years. However, by 2009, major differences over some basic issues erupted, and could not be resolved, neither at the technical, nor at the political levels, leading to the impasse on the CFA. These major differences persisted as a result of the resurfacing and hardening of the respective positions of the Nile riparians over the colonial treaties, as well as the Egyptian and Sudanese claims to what they see as their acquired uses and rights of the Nile waters, and the rejection of these claims by the upper riparians.

Nile_Map_UpdatedThe first difference related to water security. Article 14 of the CFA required the Basin states to work together to ensure that all states achieve and sustain water security. However, this paragraph did not satisfy Egypt and Sudan who wanted to ensure, through an additional clause, that their existing uses and rights are fully protected under the CFA. Consequently, Egypt and Sudan demanded and insisted that Article 14 of the CFA should include a specific provision, to be added at the end of the Article, that would oblige the Basin states “not to adversely affect the water security and current uses and rights of any other Nile Basin State.” This demand was rejected by the upper riparains who saw it as a denial of the basic principle of equitable and reasonable utilization, and a breach of the vision of the NBI itself.

The second major difference related to the concept of notification, demanded by Egypt and Sudan and rejected by the upper riparians. The upper riparians saw it as a means for Egypt and Sudan to invoke the colonial treaties and their claim of veto power.

While the impasse persisted, on May 14, 2010, four of the Nile riparians (Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda) signed the CFA in Entebbe, Uganda. They were joined five days later by Kenya, and by Burundi on February 28, 2011. The CFA has thus far been ratified by Ethiopia, Tanzania and Rwanda. It needs a total of six instruments of ratification/accession to enter into force. Egypt and Sudan continue to vehemently reject the CFA.

Developments Since Conclusion of the CFA

The upper riparians continued with their projects on the Nile notwithstanding the impasse over the CFA, and the erosion of the NBI. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which commenced in 2011, has proven a major challenge to, and a source of a bitter dispute between Ethiopia on the one hand, and Egypt and Sudan on the other. However, by December 2013, Sudan broke ranks with Egypt, and declared its full support of the GERD.

Egypt followed, albeit reluctantly, fifteen months later. Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia concluded in March 2015, through their head of states the Agreement on Declaration of Principles on the GERD (DoP). Egypt and Sudan basically accepted, through the DoP, the GERD and declared for the first time ever “the significance of the River Nile as a source of livelihood and the significant resource to the development of the people of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan.” The three countries agreed further “to cooperate based on common understanding, mutual benefit, good faith, win-win, and the principles of international law, (as well as) in understanding upstream and downstream needs in its various aspects.” The DoP went on to state explicitly that “the purpose of the GERD is for power generation to contribute to economic development, promotion of transboundary cooperation and regional integration…”

The DoP included other provisions on equitable and reasonable utilization, the obligation not to cause significant harm, as well as peaceful settlement of disputes. It also contained explicit provisions on the GERD, including cooperation on filling its reservoir, as well as its safety. The DoP was confirmed nine months later through the signature by the three countries of the Khartoum Document in December 2015 at their 4th tripartite meeting.

Breaking the Impasse

These developments clearly annulled Egypt and Sudan previously held position of securing all the Nile waters for their exclusive use through existing uses and rights, and the veto power over other Nile countries’ projects. Equality of all the riparians, as pronounced by the Permanent Court of International Justice in the 1929 River Oder case, and reconfirmed by the International Court of Justice in the 1997 Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros Project case, is now fully accepted by Egypt and Sudan. Similarly, Egypt and Sudan have confirmed their acceptance of the basic and cardinal principle of international water law of equitable and reasonable utilization.

The consequent and logical step for Egypt and Sudan is to drop their demand for recognition of their existing uses and rights as a part of the water security paragraph of the CFA. Indeed, the whole section of the CFA on water security is no longer needed, given that the CFA includes the same provisions of the United Nations Watercourses Convention (UNWC) on equitable and reasonable utilization, as well as on the obligation not to cause significant harm. It is worth mentioning that the UNWC includes no provisions on water security, as this is not a legal concept – merely a political pronouncement.

The quid pro quo for Egypt and Sudan agreeing to drop their demand for recognition of their existing uses and rights is to include provisions in the CFA similar to those of the UNWC on notification. This should cause no alarm to the upper riparians as the basis of Egypt and Sudan of their veto power in case of notification – the colonial treaties – is no longer on the table since the two countries have accepted the principle of equality of all the riparians. Besides, notification could take place through the Commission to be established under the CFA, or through the ministerial council of the Nile Basin States as happened in the latter years of the NBI before the differences erupted over the CFA.

This compromise would address the concerns of both Egypt and Sudan on the one hand, and those of the upper riparians on the other. Its details can be successfully worked out through good faith negotiations, if the political will among the Nile riparians exist. Indeed, this political will is urgently needed to resolve the differences over the CFA and conclude an agreement that is inclusive of all the Nile riparians, so as to pull the 250 million inhabitants of the Nile Basin out of their poverty, underdevelopment, hunger and darkness.

 

Midriver States: An Overlooked Perspective in the Nile River Basin

Monday, September 26th, 2016

The following essay is by Aletta Brady, Member of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO Youth Working Group. She can be reached at clairealettabrady@gmail.com.

The majority of research on transnational cooperation in the Nile River basin (and elsewhere) has failed to note the distinct perspective of midriver states. Most academic literature on transboundary river basins classifies states solely as upriver or downriver states, even in instances where countries, geographically and behaviorally, are midriver states.  Midriver states have an important position and role to play in transboundary river basins as they intimately understand the needs and concerns of both their upriver and downriver neighbors. Midriver states also have a more complex perspective of their “rights” based on their combined upstream/downstream interests. This aspect is being ignored under contemporary analyses.

An upriver state is a country out of which water in a river flows. Such states generally advocate for their right to the equitable and reasonable utilization of the waters of a transboundary river. A downriver state is a country into which a river flows. Downriver states tend to advocate for the principle of no significant harm, desiring water flow upriver to be preserved in its near-natural state until it reaches their downriver territory. A midriver state refers to a country that has water from a discrete river flowing both into and out of its territory. Midriver states can espouse the desires of both upriver and downriver states, depending on whom they are dealing with.

river_nile_mapThe Nile River basin has three mid-river states: Sudan, Uganda, and South Sudan. The academic literature has classified these states based on historical political allegiance and economic interest. For example, Sudan is usually categorized as a downriver state largely based on its historic allegiance to Egypt. Similarly, Uganda’s advocacy for a fair share of the Nile River, along with Ethiopia, has led to its classification as an upriver state. These binary categorizations, however, do not accurately characterize the behavior and interests of these two states in the Nile Basin.

Sudan’s actions and statements over the course of the past century support a much more complex analysis. Consider, for example, that in 1929, Sudan rejected the Nile Waters Agreement (NWA)—an agreement that allocated shares of the Nile River waters, giving the majority share to Egypt—between Egypt and Great Britain. Then, in 1959, Sudan changed its position and signed the Agreement for the Full Utilization of the Nile Waters with Egypt. In 1991, Sudan signed a bilateral agreement with Ethiopia, to the dismay of Egypt, that established a joint technical committee for data sharing and exploring mutually beneficial projects, and that recognized a commitment to the principle of equitable and reasonable utilization of the Nile waters. In 1996, Sudan once again sided with Egypt in opposition of Project D3—an Ethiopian proposal to establish legal cooperation and water sharing among all of the basin states. But, in 2012, Sudan expressed support for Ethiopia’s Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) against the counsel of Egypt. Sudan’s vacillating allegiance between Egypt and Ethiopia is evidence that Sudan acts neither consistently in the interest of an upstream state nor in the interest of a downstream state, but rather fluctuates between the two because it is, quite literally, caught in the middle. Sudan wants both to utilize the water within its boundaries before it flows downstream, and preserve water flow into its territory from upstream neighbors.

Similar to Sudan, Uganda’s position on which Nile neighbor to support has fluctuated. The Ugandan government opposed Egypt’s 1929 NWA. But, when Egypt supported the joint-technical institutions, HYDROMET (1967-1992) and TECCONILE (1993-2002), Uganda became a member alongside Egypt. Ethiopia and Burundi wanted legal cooperation that granted upstream states an equitable water share of the Nile River and saw TECCONILE, a technical institution, as a distraction. In comments recorded from the 1995 annual meeting of the Council of Ministers for Water Affairs (Nile-COM), Burundi explained that it would not join TECCONILE unless it “completed [an] institutional framework… [that] must guarantee equitable benefits to all.” Uganda also supported Egypt’s UNDUGU organization that launched in 1983, which was opposed by the majority of Nile upriver states.  In 1993, the Ugandan government opposed the implementation of Project D3, a legal project intended to investigate each state’s need for water, which was also supported by a majority of Nile upstream states.  In those same Nile-COM MEETING notes, a Ugandan representative criticized upriver states for being “not yet sure of the benefit from ongoing” transboundary Nile collaborations, and described the possibility of Project D3 as an “optional utilization of the Nile River.” Uganda warned against D3 “paralyz[ing] other activities, especially those that could lead to large investments in the basin.” But, in 2014, during an interview that I conducted, a Ugandan official explained that Ethiopia’s GERD “was the right thing to do,” even though, at the time, Egypt vehemently disapproved of the project.

In addition, Ugandan and Sudanese government officials, in similar interviews, identified both the desire to ‘utilize’ and ‘maintain’ the waters as high priorities, underscoring their intermediary positions as midriver states in the basin. In contrast, Ethiopian officials ranked the desire to utilize Nile waters as more important than the desire to maintain the quantity of the water, which aligns with their position as an upriver state advocating for the principle of equitable and reasonable utilization. Following suit, Egyptian officials emphasized maintaining the quantity of water as more important than utilizing the water, which aligns with their advocacy for the principle of no significant harm.

When South Sudan gained statehood in 2011, media outlets and publications immediately began discussing South Sudan as an upriver state. However, while South Sudan’s time as an independent nation has been brief, it has already demonstrated tendencies of mixed allegiances fluctuating between its downstream and upstream neighbors. For example, soon after its independence, South Sudan’s Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources stated in an interview (see here) that it was “inevitable” that South Sudan would sign the CFA, which has long been opposed by Egypt. Since that time, however, South Sudan has yet to sign that accord, which some speculate is due to its relationship with Egypt. South Sudan’s emergence as the newest basin state should be discussed as an addition to the midriver cohort in the basin rather than an additional upriver state.

Where transnational basin agreements and negotiations are approached as bilateral in nature (with the two main positions of upriver and downriver states), negotiators will likely miss key interests and perspectives of the intermediary stakeholders. Moreover, approaching negotiations with a bilateral framework puts midriver states in the uncomfortable position of choosing which neighbor to side with, even when their interests do not fully align. This could lead to midriver states reneging on agreements, or shifting allegiances, as seen in the Nile River basin. This, in turn, could increase tensions. Accordingly, a new trilateral framework encompassing the midriver classification should be utilized to better describe the relationships and interests of nations in the midriver position.