Governance of Offshore Freshwater Resources

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

Land-based supplies of freshwater are being increasingly exploited and polluted at the same time that climate change and burgeoning human population are causing widening scarcity and rising demand. Scientists have discovered that vast quantities of fresh to slightly brackish water reserves are sequestered in continental shelves around the world. These reserves take two completely different forms: aquifers and methane hydrates. Neither of these reserves has been commercially developed, and, while current technology could be utilized for aquifers, methods for extracting freshwater from methane hydrates do not yet exist. Given the vital and unique nature of freshwater, offshore freshwater resources will become more attractive as the quality and quantity of land-based supplies dwindle.The purpose of this thesis is to fill the void in legal scholarship concerning governance of offshore freshwater resources. At least three different legal regimes are relevant: the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, customary practices for offshore hydrocarbon development, and customary international law for land-based freshwater. All of these regimes have obligations to protect the environment and to cooperate with neighboring states, and all of them ensure sovereign rights to domestic natural resources while encouraging states sharing transboundary resources to seek equitable solutions. Similar to other natural resources, development of freshwater will have two distinct phases:access and distribution.Under current governance structures, access to and ownership of offshore freshwater would be assigned to coastal sovereigns,either exclusively or on a shared basis where the resource is transboundary. Distribution of natural resources has thus far been viewed as a prerogative of sovereign rights to access and ownership. However, emerging principles such as the human right to water, sustainable development and ecosystem protection have begun to place limitations on unfettered distribution rights by directing that freshwater be allocated to certain beneficial purposes.
Date of Award1 Mar 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SponsorsUniversity of Strathclyde
SupervisorFrancesco Sindico (Supervisor) & Robert Kalin (Supervisor)

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