Thinking inside the basin: scale in transboundary water management

Bunyod Holmatov, Jonathan Lautze

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
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While transboundary waters are widely advocated to be best managed at the basin level, practical experience in transboundary waters at the basin vis-à-vis other scales has not been systematically examined. To understand past experiences in transboundary water management at alternate scales, this paper: (i) determines the relative abundance of water treaties at different scales and (ii) elucidates how transboundary water law varies according to the scale to which it applies. The paper developed a scale typology with six groups, and systematically applied it to stratify transboundary water treaties. Treaty contents were then compared across scales according to the following set of parameters: primary issue area, temporal development, and important water management attributes. Results of this work reveal: (i) treaties tend to focus on hydropower and flood control at smaller scales, and organizations and policies at larger scales; (ii) a temporal trend toward treaties concluded at larger scales; and (iii) a higher proportion of treaties is at larger scales in Africa and Asia than in Europe and the Americas. These findings suggest that smaller scale cooperation may constitute a more constructive scale in which to achieve development-oriented cooperation. Further, scope may exist to complement basin scale cooperation with cooperation at smaller scales, in order to optimize transboundary water management. In the context of basin-wide management frameworks, Africa and Asia may benefit from greater emphasis on small-scale transboundary water cooperation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-138
Number of pages12
JournalNatural resources forum
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Basin
  • scale
  • transboundary water management
  • tributary


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