1st Edition

Defining Effective Transboundary Water Cooperation

  • Available for pre-order. Item will ship after March 10, 2022
ISBN 9780367647803
March 10, 2022 Forthcoming by Routledge
264 Pages 37 B/W Illustrations

USD $160.00

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Book Description

This book establishes a framework for defining transboundary water cooperation and a methodology for evaluating its effectiveness, which will contribute to more effective and therefore successful cooperation processes.

With the increasing focus on transboundary cooperation as a part of the Sustainable Development Goal Framework, there is global recognition of transboundary water cooperation as a tool for improved governance and management of transboundary surface and groundwaters. However, there is not an agreed upon definition of transboundary water cooperation in the literature or in practice. This book develops the Four Frames of Transboundary Water Cooperation, which is a neutral modular framework for developing context-specific explanatory definitions of transboundary water cooperation in basins and aquifers. The Four Frames of Cooperation are legal, institutional, relational, and outcome. However, we need to move beyond defining cooperation to understand better measures of the quality and effectiveness of cooperative processes. The Weighted Model of Effective Cooperation presents a first step in qualitatively evaluating the effectiveness of transboundary water cooperation. This model defines effective transboundary water cooperation and operationalizes a method to evaluate the effectiveness of cooperative processes over internationally shared waters. Effective cooperation emphasizes the relational and outcome frames of cooperation while working towards equitability and sustainability. Together, the Four Frames of Cooperation and the Weighted Model of Effective Cooperation will improve the understanding of cooperation and encourage a detailed evaluation of the quality, success, and effectiveness of cooperative processes.

This book will be of great interest to students and scholars of water resource management, water governance, and environmental politics. It will also appeal to policymakers and professionals working in the fields of water conflict, water diplomacy, and international cooperation.

Table of Contents

1. Using a common language for transboundary waters

Part 1: Why is a consistent definition to measure transboundary water cooperation needed?

2. Presenting the two challenges: Defining transboundary water cooperation and measuring its effectiveness

3. Demonstrating the challenges: SDG Indicator 6.5.2 – Measuring operational arrangements for transboundary water cooperation

Part II: Challenge 1: How is transboundary water cooperation defined?

4. A lack of consensus in defining transboundary water cooperation

5. Similar terms: Teasing out definitions of transboundary water cooperation

6. Framing transboundary water cooperation: A framework definition

Part III: Challenge 2: What makes transboundary water cooperation effective?

7. Murky waters: Trying to define effectiveness for transboundary water cooperation

8. Unpacking effectiveness: Developing a definition of effective transboundary water cooperation

9. Evaluating effective transboundary water cooperation: A model for effectiveness

10. A path forward for effective cooperation over transboundary waters


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Melissa McCracken is an Assistant Professor of International Environmental Policy at The Fletcher School at Tufts University. Her research focus is on international water policy and management, cooperation and conflict over shared surface and groundwaters, and conflict transformation surrounding environmental resources. Prior to joining The Fletcher School, Melissa was a Post-Doctoral Scholar with the Program in Water Conflict Management and Transformation, as well as the Manager of the Transboundary Freshwater Dispute Database housed at Oregon State University.


"Terms as seemingly straightforward as 'cooperation' and 'effective' can actually be devilishly difficult to define, and harder to tangibly gage, especially in the world of international law and diplomacy. Melissa McCracken takes on the seemingly intractable task of operationalizing both concepts, as applied to the half the land surface of the earth that lies within river basins shared by two or more countries, and does so with aplomb. Invaluable for scholars and practitioners alike, this clear and precise volume will be helpful for anyone working in the realm of water cooperation and diplomacy, and will have useful lessons for those working in other shared resources as well."
Aaron T. Wolf, Professor of Geography, Oregon State University, USA.

"This book takes the next step in measuring the effectiveness of cooperation over shared water resources. By providing an approach to defining what effective cooperation actually is and to measuring where and how cooperation takes place at what level of effectiveness, it provides great guidance to both researchers and practitioners in ensuring that our shared water resources are being managed equitably and sustainably today and in an increasingly challenging future!"
Susanne Schmeier, Associate Professor in Water Law and Diplomacy, IHE-Delft, Netherlands.

"For those who think about and act to improve transboundary water conflicts, ‘cooperation’ is a most used and abused term. Through her scrutiny of the term, McCracken helps all of us to realise that water ‘cooperation’ between states can be as instrumental and destructive as it may be positive. Thanks to this book, we can now use the term ‘cooperation’ accurately, and perhaps move some water arrangements to be more equitable, more sustainable."
Mark Zeitoun, Professor of Water Security and Policy, University of East Anglia, UK.