Transboundary Water Issues

Daniel Collins at Crikey Creek has a great suggestion for folks in the water blogging community:

In the spirit of World Water Day, and in an effort to contribute towards transboundary cooperation, I propose that all us waterbloggers (and other bloggers too!) dedicate one or more of our posts that day or beforehand specifically to transboundary water issues.

World Water Day is March 22, and in the spirit of Daniel’s suggestion, and time permitting, I’m going to try to devote a bit of time over the next couple of weeks to his suggestion. This is a useful exercise in part because here in New Mexico we face a number of important transboundary water challenges, some of which I’ve not thought about closely because of the somewhat arbitrary nature of our political boundaries and the water law that goes with them.

A list of transboundary issues here to get my thinking unclogged:

  • Whither the Colorado River Compact and its encrusted legal barnacles, a body of law that is clearly unsuited to 21st century problems. The transboundary issues here exist at a number of scales – states, nations (US/Mexico), basins (out-of-basin transfers, upper-lower basin transfer).
  • Ditto the Rio Grande Compact, which faces similar issues.
  • Transboundary groundwater basin issues at the U.S.-Mexico border.
  • The Ogallala Aquifer, where groundwater pumping across a variety of political jurisdictions poses problems.
  • More subtly, we face a host of interesting issues within the Middle Rio Grande involving use and transfer of water among and across local government jurisdictional boundaries. While not “transboundary” in the tradiational sense, the problems therein share a great deal of similarity with more traditional transboundary issues.
  • The Bellagio Treaty, an effort to come up with a model treaty for dealing with trandboundary water issues. This is one of those interesting things that I’ve long wanted to learn more about. Now’s my chance.


  1. John,
    Go for it!

    David Zetland and I have started a discussion of this on his blog Aguanomics, which you referred your readers to. We are asking the same questions but have not gotten to clear answers. At least, I have not gotten to clear answers.

    It seems that transboundary issues are another example of the multi-person prisoner’s dilemma that confounds politics often.

  2. Climate Change

    For anyone who wants to comment.

    The data seems to say that the Earth is warming and that part of this has to do with the burning of fossil fuels. The data also says that the Earth has been much warmer (16oC warmer) and had much higher CO2 levels in the past (about 20 times higher) without runaway damage to the Earth.

    So, is the resistance to climate change more about belief systems than about actual damage?

    Belief systems that may be driving the climate change movement might be:

    1. Nature is benevolent and should not be changed by man.
    2. Man is evil and should not change nature.
    3. Capitialism is evil. If it changes nature, it should be stopped.
    4. There is an ancient, nature based utopia to which we must return.
    5. Current political boundaries and national cultures must be preserved, even at great cost. (see Snohvit and Sleipner in Norway).
    6. This debate is about politics not science.
    7. Sequestering CO2 or more complex carbon compounds is an unalloyed good thing even if it causes unanticipated problems later on, such as needing that carbon to create food for people.

    Please share thoughts.

    It seems that there is a strong world view about the Earth that is underlying the climate change debate. If so, I would like to know what that world view is and whether that world view is compatible with 6.75 billion humans who need one trillion calories of food a day.

  3. I went and reread the IPCC report. The science of warming is much more solid than I remembered. The likely consequences are worse than I want them to be. There is a lot of political opportunism covering up the science.

    I am still a little annoyed at the number of people (politicians?!) who mix facts with hype, alarmism and ad hominem attacks. The mixing of reality and unreality make it harder for me to figure what’s real. I will get over the annoyance fairly soon.

    I now have hundreds of references and thousands of pages of documents if people want them.

  4. I’d urge you to call on the environmental law bloggers — this one in particular, I don’t know the person at all but the content has been good for quite a while:

    And urge someone to address “use it or lose it” in the context of loosely consolidated aquifers that collapse if they are overpumped — so Nature says “overuse it _and_ lose it” while water law says if you have a preexisting right you have to keep pumping that much out or lose your standing.

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