Research Handbook on International Water Law
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Research Handbook on International Water Law

Edited by Stephen C. McCaffrey, Christina Leb and Riley T. Denoon

The Research Handbook on International Water Law surveys the field of the law of shared freshwater resources. In some thirty chapters, it covers subjects ranging from the general principles operative in the field and international groundwater law to the human right to water and whether international water law is prepared to cope with climate disruption. The authors are internationally recognized experts in the field, most with years of experience. The Research Handbook is edited by three scholars and practitioners whose publications and work deal with the law of international watercourses.
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Chapter 11: International water law and climate disruption

A. Dan Tarlock


Climate change will stress both the consumptive and non-consumptive uses of transboundary watercourses. Existing hydrological models may be unreliable and expected supplies may diminish over time at the same time that extreme flood events become more frequent. Riparian countries must adopt more flexible management regimes to adapt to these stresses. International water law is not well suited to do so because it focuses on the creation of secure, long-term entitlements rather than on mechanisms to adjust entitlements to changed conditions and gives comparatively little weight to the conservation of aquatic ecosystems. International water law can promote adaptation by recognizing that the fundamental norm of reasonable and equitable use can incorporate adjustment to climate change. In addition, the evolving norm that riparian nations have an affirmative duty to cooperate in the management of transboundary watercourses can promote the incorporation of climate science and adaptive management into the use of these freshwater resources.

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