- How does transboundary water cooperation begin at the initial stages? Countries in many transboundary basins either do not cooperate at all or have ceased cooperation altogether. Yet cooperation does often prevail, resulting in 688 water-related treaties signed between 1820 and 2007. The question we address here is, by which practices can development partners best design and implement collaborative projects in the earliest stages? This paper identifies lessons and strategies for the initiation of cooperation drawing from global experience. We also identify the impact of securitization framing on initiating cooperation. We completed the following: 1) We culled from the Oregon State University Transboundary Freshwater Dispute Database (TFDD) a compilation of all transboundary water resources projects over the last decade that have multinational participation (official or unofficial). 2) We further refined our culling to include only projects that fit filtering criteria which included: a) Funding exclusively or primarily from outside sources b) Inclusion of non-official (Track II) stakeholders in project design and implementation c) Absence of formal relations around water resources, in the form of a treaty or River Basin Organization (RBO), between or among the riparian countries in advance of the project discussed d) Project design including at least the possibility of enhancing hydropolitical relations. Using the above filtering criteria, we selected 10 case studies. Findings suggest that it is best to focus on project designs that respect the autonomy of participating riparians, create basinwide networks of scientists, allow for each partner to garner responsibility for project activities, and consult a diverse group of stakeholders.
Although the costs and benefits of dam construction are generally borne by one country in national basins, absence or softness of legal frameworks in many international basins may increase the incentive for riparian countries to build dams since certain riparians may enjoy the benefits of dam construction while externalizing many of the costs. To determine whether the transboundary nature of river basins is associated with increased dam construction, and whether the existence of transboundary institutions offsets any such increase, this paper analyzes the extent to which i) the large dam construction rate in international watersheds differs from that of national watersheds, and ii) the rate and distribution of large dam construction differs between transboundary waters with and without agreements. Data on large dam locations, river basin boundaries, and international borders were collected, mapped in GIS and analyzed to determine dam construction rates in national and transboundary basins, and in transboundary basins with and without an agreement. The results indicate that large dam construction rates in national basins exceeds that of transboundary basins, and construction rates in areas covered by a transboundary water agreement exceed construction rates in areas not covered by an agreement. Further, it appears that agreement formation in transboundary basins enables relatively greater and more distributed development. These results indicate that dynamics of transboundary waters may be at odds with experiences in other common pool natural resources, and the existence of cooperative institutional frameworks on transboundary river basins may be linked to more equitable, mutually beneficial outcomes.
Projecting future hotspots of hydropolitical tension in river basins across the world may allow countries to take measures to prevent hydropolitical conflict. The Zambezi River Basin has been identified as a basin at risk of future hydropolitical conflict. This paper analyzes the hydropolitical resilience of the Zambezi River Basin using two approaches: i) a global analysis of factors that indicate change and a basin’s institutional capacity, and ii) an in-depth examination of the basin's hydropolitical history and its present-day status using interviews with basin stakeholders, academics, NGOs, and policy makers. Results of the global analysis indicate that the Zambezi River Basin on the whole has comparatively higher institutional capacity, lower to medium rates of new dam development, lower human development and security values, lower water scarcity, yet higher projected water variability. When examining the basin’s hydropolitical history results show that the values of the global indicators only tell a partial story. This paper argues that while global analyses of hydropolitical resilience are valid for indicating areas of possible tension over shared water resources, analyzing a basin’s hydropolitical resilience on the basin scale through tracing its hydropolitical history and interviews puts the global results into context and adds nuance that is crucial to identify specific aspects of the basin that may push the basin into a state of conflict.