Hydropolitics of Transboundary Aquifers: Towards Practical Cooperation

Groundwater resources are considered as the second largest source of freshwater in the world. The continuous decline of groundwater levels to meet the needs of agriculture, domestic and industry have caused numerous problems in different parts of the world in the second half of the last century. Accordingly, shared transboundary aquifers are taken into account as important water supply resources, especially in arid and semi-arid regions. To date, valuable experiences have been made on transboundary rivers in different levels, but despite more than a decade of technical and political attention at the highest international levels to transboundary aquifers, little progress has been made in developing and implementing agreements in this domain. The scientific knowledge of about 600 transboundary aquifers in almost every country is very weak, so that the identification of contaminated basins, the study of their pollution levels and the probability of their drying is limited to only expert's judgement.


This article reviews a number of global agreements in the continents of Europe, Africa and America and examines the experiences of each of them using descriptive-analytical method. The information used in this research is based on official documents, books, magazines and domestic, foreign and internet publications. Finally, based on strengths and weaknesses of those agreements, a framework is presented for the development of cooperation and the formulation of practical agreements for Iran.

Discussion and Results

The results of the research show that there are number of factors for successful transboundary aquifers management such as making agreement explicitly refer to groundwater, harmonizing and sharing information with neighboring states and emphasizing on cooperative and local approaches. Moreover, the proposed framework consists of four general sections: in the first part, the initial agreement (including the provision of initial financial resources using the capacity of international institutions) would be made. In the second part, all important and influential institutions should operate in the form of the Water Diplomacy Committee. In the third part, it is necessary to provide a comprehensive assessment of the state of the transboundary aquifers by creating, coordinating and integrating various information databases. Finally, considering the different political structures of the watershed management in the countries of the aquifer, a comprehensive agreement, is made.


Although competition over the use of shared water resources may have benefits in the short term to the upstream countries, but in the future, its negative effects affect all the countries in that shared basin. The failure of many governments of developing countries to apply restrictive policies on groundwater extraction, make these governments and even the global community feel anxious. Despite more than a decade of technical and political attention at the highest international levels to transboundary aquifers, little progress has been made in passing and implementing agreements on these resources. In this paper, after reviewing the conceptual models of transboundary aquifers, some of the most important global experiences in Europe, Africa and the America were studied. The results showed that, except for the French-Swiss aquifer, other agreements were not able to achieve predetermined objectives for various reasons such as the lack of national approval of the agreement, lack of financial supports, etc. Accordingly, based on the lessons learned, a framework for practical cooperation between Iran and its neighbors was proposed. The present research has taken the initial steps towards achieving practical cooperation, and its further development will lead to more acceptable results.

Article Type:
Research/Original Article
187 - 216
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