Volume 27, Issue 3

September 2011
Special Issue on Managing Transboundary Waters of Latin America

Original Articles

Transboundary Water Management in Latin America: Personal Reflections

Asit K. Biswas
Third World Centre for Water Management, Mexico

Contact: Asit K. Biswas | Email: akbiswas@thirdworldcentre.org


Management of transboundary water bodies has been a difficult process all over the world, especially in rivers where water allocation between the co-basin countries is an important issue. Discussion on the management of such water bodies in Latin America is significantly less confrontational and accusatory when compared to most similar Asian and African bodies. Information and data sharing in Latin America is also less of a problem compared to other parts of the developing world. Whereas considerable progress has been made in managing transboundary rivers, commensurate progress on aquifers is lacking. Methodology on how to reliably forecast the impacts of interventions on such water bodies has yet to be developed, especially because of national interests, multiplicity of institutions involved, and the capacities and modus operandi.

Pages: 423-429


Governance of Transboundary Aquifers: Balancing Efficiency, Equity and Sustainability

David B. Brooksa and Jamie Lintonb
aPOLIS Project on Ecological Governance, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada; bDepartment of Geography, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

Contact: David B. Brooks | Email: david.b.brooks34@gmail.com


Though most rules developed for governance of transboundary surface water will also apply to transboundary aquifers, adjustment is necessary to account for, among other things, paucity of data about aquifers, their sensitivity to contamination, and their potential to be treated as open access resources. This article explores those differences, and then suggests approaches to building institutions who can implement the rules. Experience shows that it is better to focus on future needs rather than past uses, to give priority to protection of the aquifer, and to use market instruments as tools to achieve rather than to propose results.

Pages: 431-462


The Guarani Aquifer: From Knowledge to Water Management

Luiz Amore
Berlin Institute of Technology and National Water Agency of Brazil (ANA)

Contact: Luiz Amore | Email: luiz.amore@gmail.com


This article points out the main Guarani Aquifer Project results, related to knowledge development, groundwater management instruments, and institutional arrangements, to keep the cooperation process among countries. A new level of knowledge on the aquifer geometry and functioning permits a common comprehension of main problems and focus on the local management necessities. All products and achievements were developed with strong participation of the four involved countries, supported by all governmental levels and civil society organizations. The project’s institutional arrangement is a seed of the next phase co-operation process between countries, with the implementation of the approved Strategic Action Programme (SAP).

Pages: 463-476


Transboundary Water Management of the Amazon Basin 

B. Bragaa, P. Varellab and  H. Gonçalvesb
aDepartment of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil; bNational Water Agency of Brazil, (ANA)

Contact: B. Braga | Email: benbraga@usp.br


In this paper the Amazon Basin is presented and its hydrology and natural environment are described. Monitoring this large river basin is necessary and becomes more and more important when different scientific institutions show alarming forecasts of increase in temperature and decrease in precipitation in the basin as a result of climate change. The monitoring scheme developed by Brazil and its neighbours shows the importance of this activity and its role as a mechanism to improve co-operation among countries in the basin. The institutional mechanism for transboundary river basin management is the Amazon Basin Co-operation Treaty, signed by the nine countries of the basin. This treaty is described and can serve as a good example of how this type of problem can be tackled in other regions of the world.

Pages: 477-496


International Agreements, Institutions and Projects in La Plata River Basin

Victor Pochat
Facultad de Ingeniería y Ciencias Hídricas, Universidad Nacional del Litoral, Santa Fe, Argentina

Contact: Victor Pochat | Email: vpochat@fibertel.com.ar


La Plata River basin is one of the most important river systems in the world, mainly due to its degree of development. In 1967, the Intergovernmental Co-ordinating Committee of La Plata Basin Countries (CIC) was established and, two years later, the riparian countries signed the La Plata Basin Treaty, broadly comprehensive regarding its competence, as well as a framework agreement which has facilitated the implementation of numerous bilateral or multilateral agreements that characterize the current state of co-operation. Since the 1990s, with support from international organizations, a number of projects—at sub-basin or river level—have been carried out, and, in 2001, the development of a Framework Programme for the La Plata basin was agreed. The strengthening of CIC in order to foster synergies among the different institutions and projects towards an integrated basin management approach is expected.

Pages: 497-510


The La Plata Basin System against the Background of Other Basin Organizations

Lilian Del Castillo
School of Law, University of Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Contact: Lilian Del Castillo | Email: delcastillo.laborde@gmail.com


The institutional structure of the large South American La Plata River basin started with the 1969 La Plata Basin Treaty, and it is at present a collection of bodies and commissions which behave autonomously. The treaty is not driven towards the comprehensive water management of the basin, and its purposes remain ambitious while at the same time rather declamatory. A few other river basins share La Plata Basin features, among them the Amazon, Congo, Danube, Mekong, and Nile Basins, and are analyzed in order to draw a fruitful comparison and to extract lessons learned out of their experience. Institutional architecture, decision-making structure, and funding are identified as decisive elements relevant for the efficient development of the La Plata Basin and sibling river basins organizations.

Pages: 511-537


Pilcomayo River Basin Institutional Structure

Claudio Laboranti
Formosa, Argentina

Contact: Claudio Laboranti | Email: claudiolaboranti@gmail.com


Water resources of the Pilcomayo River Basin are shared between three countries: Argentina, Paraguay, and Bolivia. It is a transboundary basin. It has several and significant peculiarities from the physical viewpoints (hydrological, sedimentological and geomorphological), as well as from the point of view of its people, cultures, ethnicity, economy, productive activities, and political and institutional organizations. The governments of the three countries decided in 1995 to begin their harmonic water management in order to resolve existing problems and to anticipate future challenges that, inevitably, would lead to the development of their peoples with a watershed management vision. This paper presents an overview of the main achievements and institutional structure of the Tri-national Commission for the development of the Pilcomayo River basin.

Pages: 539-554


Transboundary Water Management in Venezuela 

Juan Carlos Sainz-Borgo
Department of International Law and Human Rights, United Nations-affiliated University for Peace, Costa Rica

Contact: Juan Carlos Sainz-Borgo | Email: jsainz@upeace.org


This paper’s objective is to present an overview of the Venezuelan management of transboundary basins. It covers Venezuelan agreements with three neighbouring countries: Colombia, Brazil and Guyana. The Venezuelan management of the transboundary basins is based on equity. Nevertheless, this concept will depend on three main aspects: territorial sovereignty, inland waterways, and environmental conservation. Each of these factors will depend on the scenario of the country in which it is been considered. The main developments, in terms of international law, are under the framework of the Colombian relations. In the case of Brazil, it is under the framework of the multilateral agreement on the Amazon River. Guyana’s agenda concerning river basins is more complex, as a result of the territorial dispute under UN Secretary General’s supervisión.

Pages: 555-576


The US–Mexico Border: Conflict and Co-operation in Water Management 

Vicente Sánchez-Munguía
El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, San Antonio del Mar, Tijuana, Mexico

Contact: Vicente Sánchez-Munguía | Email: vsanchez@colef.mx


Water has become a topic of general concern to governments and society worldwide. Mexico and the United States are no exception, especially considering that the border between the two countries is located in an area not only characterized by drought and low rainfall, but also by the growth of the population living on both sides and the impacts of industrial development projects and increased pressure on water demand. The two countries share major surface water basins under an international treaty that was signed in 1944, but this treaty does not include the groundwater. Competition for water within each country has been growing, and also between the two countries, creating potential for possible conflicts, but has also resulted in close co-operation. This paper analyzes how the two countries work to reduce conflict and enhance co-operation in terms of managing water scarcity.

Pages: 577-593


The Silala/Siloli Watershed: Dispute over the Most Vulnerable Basin in South America

B. M. Mulligana and G. E. Ecksteinb
aUniversity of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada; bTexas Wesleyan School of Law, Fort Worth, TX, USA

Contact: B. M. Mulligan | Email: mulligan@ucalgary.ca


The dispute over the Silala (or Siloli) Basin, shared by Bolivia and Chile, illustrates the importance of history, the role of indigenous communities, and the effects of differences in national socio-economic philosophies informing water resource management in international negotiations concerning transboundary watercourses, regardless of their size. The Silala case provides an illuminating example of the overlap between surface and groundwater regimes, and the range of interpretations states can uphold regarding this complex interaction. The objective of this paper is to present a brief case study, including a physical description, historical review, summary of current status, and discussion of the legal context of the transboundary Silala Basin.

Pages: 595-606


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