Water Security and International Law





water security, international law, international environmental law, water law


The article explores water security from an international law point of view. The article argues that in order to better understand water security it is important to focus on the function of international water law. Even though water security is a relatively recent concept it was latent in the process of the evolution of international water law. 


In addition, the article examines the relationship between man and water from the point of view of water security. The article seeks to answer the question: how does international water law deal with that relationship? Is water only an object to be utilized and protected or has the relationship become more complex and ambivalent through the occurrence of various extreme events.


Furthermore, the article places the concept of water security into a historiographical and substantive context. It explores three broad approaches by international law to water issues: general international law, the regulatory approach and the management approach. The article argues that they are all relevant to water security.


Finally, the article seeks to demonstrate that even though water security has emerged as a new notion, this does not mean that international law does not include rules and principles relevant for water security. Indeed, many general principles of international law are applicable in the context of water security. In addition, specific regulations dealing with water quantity and quality issues have been developed in international environmental law, although they are not necessarily labelled as water security rules. Moreover, various risk management methods have been elaborated to deal with water-related disasters and crises. Reciprocally, water security arguments are not necessarily new notions but rather reflect already existing concepts and principles. 



Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...




Bates et al Climate Change and Water

Bates B et al (eds) Climate Change and Water: IPCC Technical Paper VI (IPCC Secretariat Geneva 2008)

Birnie, Boyle and Redgwell International Law and the Environment

Birnie P, Boyle A and Redgwell C International Law and the Environment 3rd ed (Oxford University Press Oxford 2009)

Biswas "Scientific Assessment"

Biswas AK "Scientific Assessment of the Long-term Environmental Consequences of War" in Austin JE and Bruch CE (eds) The Environmental Consequences of War: Legal, Economic and Scientific Perspectives (Cambridge University Press Cambridge 2000) 303-315

Cassese International Law

Cassese A International Law 2nd ed (Oxford University Press Oxford 2005)

Clapham Brierly's Law of Nations

Clapham A Brierly's Law of Nations: An Introduction to the Role of International Law in International Relations 7th ed (Oxford University Press Oxford 2012)

Crawford Brownlie's Principles

Crawford J Brownlie's Principles of Public International Law 8th ed (Oxford University Press Oxford 2012)

Grey and Garrick "Water Security"

Grey D and Garrick D "Water Security, Perceptions and Politics: The Context for International Watercourse Negotiations" in Boisson de Chazournes L, Leb C and Tignino M (eds) International Law and Freshwater: The Multiple Challenges (Edward Elgar Cheltenham 2013) 37-94

Higgins Problems and Processes

Higgins R Problems and Processes: International Law and How We Use It (Oxford University Press Oxford 1994)

Kennedy 1986 Harv Int'l LJ

Kennedy D "Primitive Legal Scholarship" 1986 Harv Int'l LJ 1-98

Koskeniemi 1984 Oikeustiede-Jurisprudentia

Koskenniemi M "International Pollution in the System of International Law" 1984 Oikeustiede-Jurisprudentia 91-181

Kuokkanen International Law and the Environment

Kuokkanen T International Law and the Environment: Variations on a Theme (Kluwer Law International The Hague 2002)

Kuokkanen "Problem-solving Role of International Environmental Law"

Kuokkanen T "Problem-solving Role of International Environmental Law, with Special Reference to Water-related Problems" in Kuokkanen T et al (eds) International Environmental Law-making and Diplomacy: Insights and Overviews (Routhledge New York 2016) 31-47

Lipper "Equitable Utilisation"

Lipper J "Equitable Utilisation" in Garretson AH, Hayton RD and Olmstead CJ (eds) The Law of International Drainage Basins (Oceana New York 1967) 15-88

Lipponen "The UNECE Water Convention"

Lipponen A "The UNECE Water Convention and the Support It Gives to the Management of Shared Waters: From Obligations to Practical" in Lewis M, Couzens E and Honkonen T (eds) International Environmental Law-making and Diplomacy Review 2014 (University of Eastern Finland Joensuu 2015) 48-63

O'Connell International Law

O'Connell DP International Law – Vol 1 (Stevens & Sons London 1965)

Smith Economic Uses of International Rivers

Smith HA The Economic Uses of International Rivers (King & Son London 1931)

UN World Water Assessment Programme Water for People

UN World Water Assessment Programme Water for People, Water for Life: A Joint Report by the Twenty Three UN Agencies Concerned with Freshwater (UNESCO New York 2003)

Utton "International Water Quality Law"

Utton A "International Water Quality Law" in Teclaff LA and Utton AE (eds) International Law and Pollution (Praeger New York 1974) 154-186

Woldetsadik "Remodelling Sovereignty"

Woldetsadik TK "Remodelling Sovereignty: Overtures of a New Water Security Paradigm in the Nile Basin Legal Discourse" in Tvedt T, McIntyre O and Woldetsadik TK (eds) Sovereignty and the Development of International Water Law, Volume 8: A History of Water Series III (Taruis London 2015) 641-665

Wouters, Vinogradov and Magsig 2009 YbIEL

Wouters P, Vinogradov S and Magsig B-O "Water Security, Hydrosolidarity, and International Law: A River Runs Through It…" 2009 YbIEL 97-134

Case law

Case Relating to the Territorial Jurisdiction of the International Commission of the River Oder Permanent Court of Justice Judgement No 16 of 10 September 1929

GabCikovo-Nagymaros Project (Hungary v Slovakia) Judgment of 25 September 1997, ICJ Reports 1997, 7

Lake Lanoux Arbitration (English translation) 24 ILR 105-142; Affaire du Lac Lanoux, (1957) XII UNRIAA, 285-317

Official Opinions of the Attorneys-General of the United States, Advising the President and Heads of Departments in Relation to Their Official Duties (1895) Vol XXI, Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo - International Law, Opinion by Judson Harmon, 274-283

International instruments

Agreement between the United States of America and Canada on Great Lakes Water Quality (1978) (Great Lakes Agreement)

Agreement Concerning the International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine against Pollution (1963) (Rhine Agreement)

Agreement on the Cooperation for the Sustainable Development of the Mekong River Basin (1995)

Convention and Statute on the Regime of Navigable Waterways of International Concern (1921)

Convention for the Protection of the Rhine against Chemical Pollution (1976) (Rhine Convention)

Convention on Cooperation for the Protection and Sustainable Use of the Danube River (1994)

Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses (1997) (UN Watercourse Convention)

Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (1992) (UNECE Convention / Helsinki Convention)

Convention on the Protection of the Waters of Lake Constance Against Pollution (1960) (Lake Constance Convention)

Convention Relating to the Development of Hydraulic Power Affecting More than One State (1923)

Convention Respecting the Navigation of Rhine between the Empire and France (1804) (Rhine Convention)

Definitive Treaty of Peace and Amity between Austria, Great Britain, Portugal, Prussia, Russia and Sweden, and France (1814) (1814 Treaty of Paris)

General Treaty for the Re-establishment of Peace between Austria, France, Great Britain, Prussia, Sardinia and Turkey, and Russia (1856) (1856 Treaty of Paris)

Ministerial Declaration of The Hague on Water Security in the 21st Century (2000)

Protocol Concerning the Constitution of an International Commission for the Protection of the Mosel against Pollution (1961) (Mosel Convention)

Protocol on Civil Liability and Compensation for Damage Caused by the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents on Transboundary Waters to the 1992 Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes and to the 1992 Convention on the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents (2003) (Civil Liability Protocol)

Protocol on Water and Health to the 1992 Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (1999) (Water and Health Protocol)

Report of the Sixth Committee Convening as the Working Group of the Whole UN Doc A 51/869 (1997)

Revised SADC Protocol on Shared Watercourses (2000)

Third Report of the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses, Special Rapporteur Schwebel UN Doc A/CN.4/348 (1982)

Treaty between Great Britain and the United States Relating to Boundary Waters, and Questions Arising between the United States and Canada (1909) (Boundary Waters Treaty)

Treaty of Bayonne (1866)

Treaty of Peace between the British Empire, France, Italy, Japan and the United States (the Principal Allied and Associated Powers) and Belgium, China, Czechoslovakia, Cuba, Greece, Nicaragua, Panama, Portugal, Romania, the Serb-Croat-Slovene Stata and Siam, and Austria (1919) (Treaty Versailles)

Internet sources

World Economic Forum 2016 http://reports.weforum.org/global-risks-2016/

World Economic Forum 2016 Global Risks Report 2016 http://reports.weforum.org/global-risks-2016/ accessed 1 December 2016

Wouters date unknown https://www.dundee.ac.uk/media/dundeewebsite/


Wouters P date unknown Water Security: A Global Issue https://www.dundee.ac.uk/media/dundeewebsite/water2/documents/policy-briefs/No1.Wouters.pdf accessed 11 January 2017



How to Cite

Kuokkanen, T. (2017). Water Security and International Law. Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal, 20, 1–22. https://doi.org/10.17159/1727-3781/2017/v20i0a1652



Special Edition: Water Security

Similar Articles

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 > >> 

You may also start an advanced similarity search for this article.