The story of the “water wars” regurlarly makes the headlines in the medias and fuelling fears that tensions over blue gold are a source of potential conflict in these basins.

If historical analysis belies this idea, then the past is no guide to the future!

Tensions on water resources are increasing. They are exacerbated by disruptions to the water cycle caused by climate change, population growth and unsustainable consumption and production patterns.

Peacefully overcoming the water crisis by exploiting the potential for cooperation requires a substantial effort. To make the most of concerted management of cross-border rivers and lakes, we need to significantly increase the resources allocated to creating and strengthening transboundaries basin organisations

International water law (most notably the 1992 Helsinki Convention and the 1997 New York Convention) invites us to do so.
It also stresses the need to balance the “principle of non-damage” and the “principle of equitable and reasonable use”, which structure it, in order to strengthen cooperation and create upstream-downstream solidarity between riparian states.

Regional legal frameworks such as the Water Framework Directive (WFD) for the European Union and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Treaty Protocol in Southern Africa and those specific to groundwater (International Law Commission draft articles on the law of transboundary aquifers 2008) have echoed this imperative for cooperation.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) also provide a policy framework for improving the integrated management of transboundary water resources, with a dedicated target (6.5) and indicator (6.5.2) for monitoring progress.

Many countries are embarking on the path of cooperation and are implementing Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) with their neighbours on the scale of the transboundary basins and aquifers they share. They derive more benefit from the coordinated exercise of their respective sovereignty than they would have obtained through unilateralism.

Cooperating means more efficient water management!

Allocating volumes of water and the benefits derived from its use, sharing experience and innovative governance, and investing in joint projects, particularly infrastructure projects, are all excellent ways of ensuring sustainable development, adapting to climate change, preserving biodiversity and preventing conflicts.