Evolving Issues of International Law and Policy
NUS Centre for International Law series
Edited by S. Jayakumar, Tommy Koh, Robert Beckman and Hao Duy Phan
Chapter 4: Pollution of shared freshwater resources in international law
Freshwater disputes between States are increasing, due in part to shrinking supplies of water relative to the human population. Pollution can reduce available freshwater supplies even further and can harm aquatic ecosystems on which humans depend. Much of the world’s fresh water is shared by two or more States. Over ninety per cent of the fresh water potentially available for human use is stored in underground aquifers. While much of this groundwater interacts with surface water, it moves slowly and can be contaminated if not carefully managed. Two global treaties regulate the problem of transboundary water pollution and State practice has developed general rules of customary international law on the subject. Governments are bringing freshwater disputes to international courts and tribunals at an increasing rate and decisions in these cases hold valuable lessons for governments as regards the use, protection and management of international watercourses.
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