Transboundary Water Resources: Opportunities for International Cooperation

EPA Grant Number: U915936
Title: Transboundary Water Resources: Opportunities for International Cooperation
Investigators: Hecox, Eric B.
Institution: Indiana University
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: January 1, 2001 through January 1, 2003
Project Amount: $97,750
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2001) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Environmental Justice , Fellowship - Environmental


Today's most pronounced common pool resource problems occur in the international arena. Critical environmental problems such as stratospheric ozone loss, global climate change, management of the oceans, and the depletion and degradation of regional aquifers, rivers, and lakes can only be solved at the international level. Current research regarding these international common pool resources (or transboundary resources) has focused extensively on bilateral and regional conflict associated with environmental scarcity. Many scholars predict that environmental problems and resource scarcity will increasingly precipitate international strife. As nations face growing internal environmental scarcity and degradation, international conflict over resources and the environment is bound to intensify. Transboundary resources, however, bring more than just conflict to the international arena. Environmental scarcity can be a catalyst for international cooperation. With the formation of bilateral and regional institutions, state and nonstate actors have cooperated in a variety of situations to protect common pool resources. Through these institutions, nations have attempted to avert potential conflict by engaging in environmental cooperation. There is, however, little understanding of the strength of these institutions. The objective of this research project is to address the following: (1) What is the foundation of these international agreements? Around which environmental problems are these institutions likely to form? (2) Are these cooperative agreements sufficiently robust for dealing with increasingly scarce resources?


The vital, yet broad, theoretical questions regarding international environmental cooperation can only be investigated in the context of specific examples. Perhaps the richest area for this type of investigation is international agreements governing the use of water. My research will focus on a comparative analysis of specific cases where nations have developed cooperative institutions to manage transboundary water resources. For each case study, I will identify the scientific, economic, political, and historical conditions under which these international cooperative institutions were formed. A comparative analysis of these parameters will result in a comprehensive matrix of conditions necessary for international cooperation over water resources. This investigation will lend insight into how and why these cooperative institutions form. The creation of international cooperative institutions, however, is not adequate for sustainable management of water resources. These institutions will have to be sufficiently robust to deal with increasing scarcity. An analysis of each case will, therefore, include an examination of institutional strength and the likelihood of future success. Through such a comparative analysis, it will be possible to identify the characteristics that make transboundary resource agreements not only feasible, but potentially successful.

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, water resources, international co-operation, international co-operative institutions, common pool resource problems, environmental problems, transboundary resources, environmental scarcity, international conflict, transboundary water resources., RFA, Air, climate change, Air Pollution Effects, Atmosphere

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2001
  • Final