The IUCN Academy of Environmental Law series
Edited by Michael Kidd, Loretta Feris, Tumai Murombo and Alejandro Iza
Chapter 5: Transboundary groundwater management: comparison between international law codification and EU water policy
For that which is common to the greatest number, has the least care bestowed upon it. Everyone thinks chiefly of his own, hardly at all of the common interest. Aristotle, Politics, Book II, Chapter 3. Nowadays, it is common knowledge that Mankind is inflicting severe damage on the environment. It is discreetly mentioned as growing ‘human pressure’. Crises of commons, crises of water – some impacts are obvious, others are difficult to detect. Such is the case, notably, with groundwater. Long neglected by law, which is rather focused on the protection of surface waters, and still quite unrecognized, groundwater now arouses new interest. The geopolitical, socioeconomic and ecological contexts easily explain this new interest, as the fear of fresh water shortages is in many areas accompanied by the fear of conflicts which may arise. The nature of water, especially groundwater (which is most of the time invisible), does not easily fit together with the concept of State boundary. More generally, the notion of environment is separate from this political fragmentation and requires new patterns. The water issue is as wide as it is complex; it should be considered on all spatial scales – from local to global levels. Water management should respect a regional framework (in the geographical sense), which would correspond to a catchment area/an aquifer; in many cases, hydrosystems extend over territories that belong to several States. Transboundary continental surface waters have been, for a long time, the subject of the creation of bilateral/multilateral management instruments.
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