Conflicting claims to shared inland water resources

Other Names:
International water disputes

The quantity and quality of available water resources for human, animal and plant consumption is limited and fixed. Population increase, technological advances and higher standards of living make the competition for securing water supplies a vital issue. National sovereignty over these waters allows a state to divert waters while in its territory, often causing injury to other states sharing the same resource. Problems are, therefore, increasing over the use of such shared inland water resources, and disputes are present in many parts of the world.


There are more than 250 surface international drainage basins or international aquifers; that is, those underground waters shared between two or more states. There are at least 10 rivers passing through six or more countries. International agreements for sharing the benefits deriving from these waters are few. As a consequence, the potential for conflicts cannot but increase. The Indus, Ganges, Brahma Putra, Arvand Roud, Sind, underground water tables between Mexico and the USA, the Nile, Danube, Euphrates, Tigris and Jordan river basins are examples of problem areas where disputes over water are potential or real.

Israel's siege to occupy the Golan Heights in 1967 was to gain control of the water divide. Another examples of recent water wars is a conflict over use of water between nomads and local tankers in Mali where 1000 people were killed.



In order to cope with this problem, states should accept the principle of limited territorial sovereignty over the shared water resources located on or under their territories, and thus refrain from acting unilaterally without consulting and/or cooperating with other basin states.

Counter Claim:

It is unrealistic to expect states to accept the principle of limited territorial sovereignty over the shared water resources located in their territories.

Problem Type:
D: Detailed problems
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 6: Clean Water and SanitationGOAL 7: Affordable and Clean EnergyGOAL 14: Life Below WaterGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
Date of last update
22.05.2019 – 17:03 CEST