Are shared benefits of international waters an equitable apportionment?

A. Dan Tarlock, Patricia Wouters

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This brief article examines the case for applying a shared benefits strategy to the development of an international river basin as a substitute for the more traditional method of allocating a basin's water supply among riparian nations bordering an international river. The article traces the origin of the theory, articulates several objections, and examines two case studies of shared benefits. The concept of benefits sharing with respect to water is said to have originated in the negotiations over the Canada-United States Columbia River Treaty. We find that there are lingering doubts in Canada about the success of the treaty in allocating benefits to both parties; Canada's use of the Columbia continues to be primarily hydropower production for the United States. The second case study considers the Amu and Syr Darya basins in Central Asia. Benefit sharing has been adopted as the theory for basin development, but unrestrained unilateral action, unsustainable agricultural practices, and corresponding ecosystem degradation continue. Four possible problems with the substitution of benefit sharing for traditional allocation are identified and discussed, including buyer's remorse, the sacrifice of aquatic ecosystems for monetary gain, the construction of new dams of dubious benefit, and the failure to address the problems of adaptation to global climate.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)523-536
    Number of pages14
    JournalColorado Journal of International Environmental Law and Policy
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2007


    • International water law
    • Transboundary watercourses
    • Water sharing


    Dive into the research topics of 'Are shared benefits of international waters an equitable apportionment?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this