Tributary-level transboundary water law in the Syr Darya: overlooked stories of practical water cooperation

Bunyod Holmatov*, Jonathan Lautze, Jusipbek Kazbekov

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Conventional emphasis on basin-wide water management has often resulted in the formation of transboundary water law on the basin or near basin scale. In Central Asia, however, the Syr Darya Basin possesses an abundance of tributary-level cooperative agreements that guide and codify water sharing and management on the sub-basin scale. To understand the volume and nature of this cooperation, this paper compiled and analyzed a set of agreements that apply to small transboundary tributaries (STTs) in the Syr Darya Basin. The paper assembled the largest collection of STT water agreements—123 in total—and classified such documents according to a range of criteria including: purpose and objectives, water management issues, and operational mechanisms. Results of this work highlight a rise in sub-basin-scale cooperation in the first decade of the twenty-first century, a time when large-scale cooperation appeared tenuous; a practical orientation to transboundary water management at a small scale; and an abundance of treaties of short time duration. These findings present options related to scale, time duration and focus of transboundary water law that can help inform future treaty development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)873-907
Number of pages35
JournalInternational Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Central Asia
  • Syr Darya Basin
  • Transboundary tributaries
  • Transboundary water cooperation
  • Water law
  • Water management


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