Water - Research Guide International Law

The Law of International Watercourses is evolving with increasing importance despite its relative youth as a subject of public international law and the fact that much of the law is emerging but not as yet well established law. From times of Antiquity, when early civilizations settled along the great rivers of the world, water has played an important role in economic and social development. Apart from domestic consumption, navigation was the most important use of water, and early doctrine and State practice reflect this. Following the Industrial Revolution, competition over the non-navigational uses of international watercourses spurred the development of international water law. In recent years rules have been developed and codified through the work of the United Nations, non-governmental organizations, institutions and associations for international law, including the International Law Association (ILA) and the Institut de droit international (IDI). Central is the work of the UN International Law Commission (ILC), which led to the adoption of the Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1997. The entry into force of this convention and the recent amendment of the UNECE Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Helsinki, 17 March 1992) to open it up to non-UNECE States have given a boost to this field of international law. As water scarcity and increasing environmental pollution will inevitably result in more disputes over international watercourses in the future and, at the extreme, in armed conflict, the further codification and progressive development of the law of international watercourses is essential to prevent this.

This Research Guide is intended as a starting point for research in the field of the Law of International Watercourses. It provides the basic legal materials available in the Peace Palace Library, both in print and electronic format. Handbooks, leading articles, bibliographies, periodicals, serial publications and documents of interest are presented in the Selective Bibliography section. Links to the PPL Catalogue are inserted. The Library's systematic classification → International waterways and subject heading (keyword) International Watercourses are instrumental for searching through the Catalogue. Special attention is given to our subscriptions on databases, e-journals, e-books and other electronic resources. Finally, this Research Guide features links to relevant websites and other online resources of particular interest.


Reference works

Recent Books (2012-2018)

Leading articles


Periodicals, serial publications


Systematic classification → Territory and jurisdiction

New titles

Please, check our bibliographic updates on International Watercourses. Revised and updated, 17 July 2014:

Seems like there are no recent acquisitions right now''.

Librarian's choice

  • MacCaffrey, S.C. (eds.) (et al.), Promoting Equity, Cooperation and Innovation in the Fields of Transboundary Waters and Natural Resources Management: the Legacy of Dr. David J.H. Phillips, Leiden; Boston, Brill Nijhoff, 2017.

    Promoting Equity, Cooperation and Innovation in the Fields of Transboundary Waters and Natural Resources Management honours the memory and legacy of Dr. David J.H. Phillips, an extraordinary scientist, consultant and friend of the editors and contributors. He was a scientist of exceptional quality, dedicated to the practical study of aquatic environments, be they marine, freshwater or virtual. This volume contains excerpts from his meticulously researched work from a wide range of settings globally. Colleagues' essays provide insights to a man who lived life to the utmost, worked to the highest professional standards and had a unique gift in challenging situations to generate understanding and practical responses through his curiosity, remarkable ingenuity, and sheer hard work. His work opens many new paths of research and continues to inspire scientists and researchers in the fields of marine biology and pollution, fresh water issues, and conflict over transboundary water resources.

    View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
  • Bremer, N., The Regulation of the Non-Navigational Use of the Euphrates and Tigris River System: International Law Regulating the Distribution and Utilisation of the Water of Euphrates and Tigris illustrated by the Atatürk and Ilisu Dams, The Hague, Eleven International Publishing, 2017.

    This book analyses the distribution and utilisation of the water of the Euphrates and Tigris river system from the perspective of international law. It shows which international treaties and provisions of international customary law regulating the non-navigational use of international freshwater systems are binding for the riparian states, Iraq, Syria and Turkey, and how the distribution and utilisation of the waters of the river system are governed by these. this study uses two Turkish dams – the Atatürk Dam on the Euphrates and the Ilisu Dam on the Tigris – to illustrate which provisions of international law are binding and what problems arise concerning the application of these principles.

    View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
  • Temmerman, F., Trade in Water under International Law: Bulk Fresh Water, Irrigation Subsidies and Virtual Water, Cheltenham, UK; Northampton, MA, USA, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2017.

    Freshwater is an increasingly scarce resource globally, and effective sustainable management will be absolutely crucial in the future. This timely book sets out future scenarios of international trade in both ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ water, examining the relationship between climate change, water scarcity, the human right to water and World Trade Organization law. Trade in Water Under International Law addresses questions of global importance such as: how can international trade in bulk water contribute to the advancement of the human right to water? Are ‘green-boxed’ irrigation subsidies disturbing the markets? Should water-footprint process and production methods allow for a different treatment of otherwise ‘like’ products? From examining the impact of water law on small-scale farmers in developing countries, to the broader issue of global environmental responsibility, Fitzgerald Temmerman explores the options available for fair resource allocation through international law arrangements such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade. By taking a wide-reaching and non-technical approach, this book will capture the attention not only of international trade law professionals, but of all stakeholders in the field. With such relevance to contemporary environmental issues, this book will also be of interest to non-legally qualified individuals who want to comprehend the future possibilities of fair water trade.

    View this title in our link resolver Plinklet



Free Access

The Lecture Series contains a permanent collection of lectures of enduring value on virtually every subject of international law given by leading international law scholars and practitioners from different regions, legal systems, cultures and sectors of the legal profession. Lectures on the Law of International Watercourses by Stephen C. McCaffrey, Salman M.A. Salman, Chusei Yamada and Eyal Benvenisti.


  • UPEACE/Peace Palace Library Lecture: Judge Kenneth Keith and PCA Legal Counsel Judith Levine on International Water Disputes

    On Wednesday January 28, 2015, the fourth of a series of Lectures on Peacebuilding in Progress was held at the Academy Building of the Peace Palace, The Hague. The lectures on Peacebuilding are organised by the UPEACE Centre The Hague and the Peace Palace Library.

    Read more
  • International Water Law: Recent Developments

    International water law is on the move. It is evolving with increasing importance despite its relative youth as a subject of public international law. The entry into force of the 1997 Watercourses Convention and the recent amendment of the 1992 Water Convention to open it up to non-UNECE States have given a boost to this field of international law. It is important and encouraging to see that the recently established universal norms have been nurturing each other and have inspired new agreements on individual river basins and aquifers. Further cooperation is still needed, however. International law is a recognized means for supporting and developing this.

    Read more
  • Canal Digging

    Two big canal digging plans are under way: the Interoceanic-Nicaragua Canal and the Istanbul Canal. The construction of this new canal brings into focus the 1936 Montreux Convention Regarding the Regimes of the Straits, which regulates the transit through the Straits Region. Will this new Canal undermine the principles of transit and transportation liberty, as is stipulated in Article 1 and 2. Is it time to revise the Montreux convention adapting it to modern views and situations?

    Read more
  • 40 Years of the Ramsar Convention : Appraisal and Outlook

    On 2 February 1971, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands was adopted. The original Contracting Parties of the Convention were driven by an anxiety that migratory waterbirds were in increasing danger because of loss of their habitats. And yet in their wisdom they created a convention focused on wetland ecosystems rather than just wetland birds.

    Read more
  • Scheldt River Dispute (Part II) : Hedwige Polder

    The Scheldt is a transboundary river which originates in North-Western France and runs through Western Belgium and the South-West of the Netherlands. The Scheldt Estuary is shared between Belgium and the Netherlands. Since the separation of Belgium from the Netherlands in 1839, the free navigation of the Scheldt and the maintenance and improvement of the navigation channel have been a bone of contention and legal controversy.

    Read more
  • Transboundary Water Cooperation in the Newly Independent States

    With the emergence of the Newly Independent States (NIS) in the 1990s, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, new borders cut through Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. As a result, many water allocation and pollution problems that were previously national issues within the Soviet Union have become transboundary issues.

    Read more

 Regional Organizations

See also

More Research guides on Special Topics

PPL keywords

Other suggestions

Systematic classification → Territory and jurisdiction