Transboundary water management is becoming more complex due to climate changes. An alternative water management concept is needed.

Transboundary water management is becoming more complex due to climate changes.

An alternative water management concept is needed.

Dursun Yıldız

C.E Hydropolitcs Expert (M.Sc.)

Hydropolitics Association,




Only 2.5% of the water on earth is freshwater resources. However, the rate of usable freshwater resources in the world is below 1%.

  In the last century, the world's population has tripled while water use has increased sevenfold. Water resources management is multi-purpose in every aspect. In water resources management, there are conflicting interests among users in the main sectors of socio-economic life (agriculture, industry, drinking water).

Competition over water resources occurs at local, regional, national, and international levels and among various users and stakeholders. Disputes regarding transboundary waters may be political, economic, environmental, or legal. Climate change is increasing the complexity of transboundary water management. Therefore alternative water management concept is needed. This  study aims to explain this emerging need

Keywords: Transboundary water, climate changes, water management, water dispute


263 transboundary river basins on earth cross the political boundaries of two or more countries. These transboundary basins cover 45.3% of the world's land surface, host 40% of the world's population, and account for approximately 60% of global water flow. In total, the territory of 145 countries is located in transboundary basins[1].

In the arid and semi-arid climate zones of Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia, and in geographies where developing countries have transboundary water resources, disasters (floods and droughts) caused by climate change can lead to collapse in the socio-economic structure and political instability.

For this reason, it is of great importance to take into account the uncertainty and risks created by climate change, especially in negotiations regarding the use and allocation of transboundary water resources between these states. However, these risks have not been taken into account in many bilateral or multilateral agreements on the allocation and sharing of transboundary water resources. Most transboundary water agreements do not cover natural changes such as seasonal/annual precipitation and flow differences, possible drought, and flood conditions.

For example, in 1987, a temporary protocol was signed between Turkey and Syria, which stipulated that approximately half of the flow of the Euphrates' waters in normal years (500 m3/second) would be released to Syria by Turkey.

However, this protocol did not take into account variability in river discharge due to climate change. The water-sharing agreement signed within the framework of the Jordan-Israel Peace Treaty (1994) did not take into account the drought conditions frequently experienced in this region. This deficiency caused a diplomatic crisis between the two countries as a result of the drought in 2001.

The adverse effects of climate change on water resources continue to increase. Therefore, in transboundary water negotiations, the parties should take into account the effects of climate change as well as the water allocation conditions. In addition, existing water allocation agreements should be updated according to these conditions and made more flexible.

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