Edited by Stephen C. McCaffrey, Christina Leb and Riley T. Denoon
Chapter 10: Water and multilateral environmental agreements: an incomplete jigsaw puzzle
The international legal relationship between water and the environment is complex and fragmented. Virtually all Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) relate to water in some way, but MEAs’ treatment of water varies, and no treaty addresses comprehensively the relationship between water and the environment. Instead, a fragmented approach exists. Hundreds of watercourse treaties exist containing rules about watercourse allocation and, increasingly, general obligations to protect the environment; and hundreds of other environmental treaties covering a wide range of resources and threats address some aspects of the water-environment relationship. Customary international law is also relevant. This jigsaw puzzle has led to three realities: gaps, overlaps and inconsistencies in coverage; the imperative that environmental treaty regimes coordinate their policies and actions; and impediments to cooperation among regimes. Unless normative clarification and institutional rationalization occur, water shortages will worsen, water will increasingly be used in environmentally harmful ways, and international disputes will needlessly arise.
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