- Biophysical, socioeconomic and geopolitical pressures from population growth and economic development are leading to an increase in tensions regarding the sharing of water within transboundary basins. Transboundary basins are surface rivers and groundwater resources that are shared among sovereign nations and autonomous regions. This dissertation focuses on surface water in several river basin organizations (RBOs), with focus on the Nile Basin. Various international principles and rules have been proposed to build resilience and adaptive capacity in order to promote cooperation among stakeholders sharing river basins. In this dissertation, resilience is defined as the ability of a transboundary water management system to maintain its basic functions when subjected to biophysical, socioeconomic, and geopolitical pressures. Adaptability is defined as the capacity of an institution, such as a transboundary basin organization, to be resilient. This dissertation: 1) assesses the extent to which the principle of equitable distribution of benefits (EDB) contributes to resilience and 2) evaluates the institutional capacity of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) to be resilient under biophysical, socioeconomic, and geopolitical pressures. A review of the literature about managing transboundary rivers (Chapter 2) describes: 1) stakeholder interests, 2) current and potential trends in conflict and/or cooperation, 3) transboundary security, 4) management strategies, and 5) institutional capacity in shared rivers. The chapter discusses the difference in responses to these challenges among stakeholders across differing spatial (international, national, provincial and
local) scales. It asserts that institutions, especially RBOs, play a key role in managing transboundary rivers. The EDB principle is evaluated with respect to the most cited international rule on rivers, the 1997 UN Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses (Chapter 3). We propose a broad approach for implementing the EDB in transboundary river basins. The chapter argues that the EDB requires an assessment of the distribution of potential benefits, while simultaneously considering sustainable management strategies including as many factors as possible. The EDB principle is ambiguous, making it difficult to implement in the Nile Basin (Chapter 4). These ambiguities include poor definitions of terms such as equity and benefits, and few details on how to implement benefit sharing. Nevertheless, the principle has tremendous potential for maximizing benefits and promoting cooperation in the Nile Basin. In Chapter 5, we assess the institutional capacity of the NBI (an RBO formed by nine of the ten Nile countries) to be resilient in the face of probable biophysical, socioeconomic and geopolitical pressures. The resiliency of the NBI was assessed using five criteria: 1) vision statement, 2) doing research, 3) proposal of specific projects, 4) implementation of projects and 5) monitoring of projects. The chapter finds that the NBI has mixed resiliency strengths ranging from no resilience (where none of the five criterions are achieved) to achieving all of the five criterions (very high) in mitigating biophysical, socioeconomic and geopolitical pressures. In conclusion, this dissertation shows that development aspirations, sustainable water management, poverty alleviation and conflict resolution objectives could be met more successfully through an equitable benefit sharing framework rather than water quantity allocation and improving the institutional capacity of RBOs.