The Challenge of Sustainability
New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series
Chapter 8: Norms of International Law
INTERNATIONAL NORMS CONTROLLING NATIONAL WATER RESOURCES (a) The Issues The Grundnorm of international law in relation to natural resources is the sovereign right of a nation state to use, develop and control its natural resources including the water resources within its territory. The exercise of this right has become increasingly constrained over recent years. This applies to water resources confined within the territorial boundaries of the state. It also applies to water resources that are common-pool resources in the sense of waters flowing across the surface of the land in watercourses or located in underground aquifers but not confined within the territorial boundaries of the state – in other words, international water resources. International watercourses able to be navigated have traditionally been available to be used for that purpose. International watercourses are also the source of energy for industrial and commercial purposes and the destination for the deposit of waste from agricultural, industrial and domestic activities. Thus the activities of upper riparian states impact upon lower riparian states and vice versa. This is not a new phenomenon and it has been debated by international jurists for many years. Not all water resources located within a nation state are common-pool resources in this sense. First, a nation state may be an island or a group of islands. Secondly, some or all of the water resources of a nation state which borders another nation state may be confined within its territorial boundaries. In each case these are national rather than international water resources....
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