The Guarani aquifer agreement and transboundary aquifer law in the SADC: comparing apples and oranges?

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Abstract

nternational law governing transboundary aquifers is considerably underdeveloped, with only a handful of bilateral and multilateral agreements governing specific aquifer systems to date. However, the significance of transboundary aquifers in addressing water security concerns is gaining recognition, and dialogue discussing the future of the international legal framework is growing in importance. Contributing to this dialogue, we seek to compare different legal instruments applicable to the management of transboundary aquifers in different regions. We draw from the experience of the processes that led to an established transboundary agreement in one region, and compare it to another region that is yet to establish a formal legal instrument. Specifically, we compare the Guarani Aquifer System in Latin America with international legal instruments applicable to the management of transboundary aquifers in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). We identify several trends arising from the management of the Guarani Aquifer System that could have potentially valuable input for SADC countries currently embarking upon the initial stages of the management of a transboundary aquifer. Central to this article is the underlying question of whether these international legal instruments, which are placed in dramatically different contexts, can be compared in the first place. We conclude that such a comparison is useful only if undertaken as a process of knowledge acquisition, as such a broad comparative exercise is limited in its ability to produce direct policy recommendations. Gaining knowledge of regional governance practices in relation to differing aquifer characteristics is particularly important in this underdeveloped area, especially as discussions regarding the future for transboundary aquifer law are gaining momentum at the international level.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)318-329
Number of pages12
JournalReview of European Community and International Environmental Law
Volume24
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2015

Keywords

  • international water law
  • transboundary aquifers
  • SADC
  • Guarani
  • comparative law

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