International Water Law and the Quest for Common Security: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

International Water Law and the Quest for Common Security

1st Edition

By Bjorn-Oliver Magsig


212 pages | 13 B/W Illus.

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The world’s freshwater supplies are increasingly threatened by rapidly increasing demand and the impacts of global climate change, but current approaches to transboundary water management are unsustainable and may threaten future global stability and international security. The absence of law in attempts to address this issue highlights the necessity for further understanding from the legal perspective.

This book provides a fresh conceptualisation of water security, developing an operational methodology for identifying the four core elements of water security which must be addressed by international law: availability; access; adaptability; and ambit. The analysis of the legal framework of transboundary freshwater management based on this contemporary understanding of water security reveals the challenges and shortcomings of the current legal regime. In order to address these shortcomings, the present mindset of prevailing rigidity and state-centrism is challenged by examining how international legal instruments could be crafted to advance a more flexible and common approach towards transboundary water interaction.

The concept of considering water security as a matter of ‘regional common concern’ is introduced to help international law play a more prominent role in addressing the challenges of global water insecurity. Ways for implementing such an approach are proposed and analysed by looking at international hydropolitics in Himalayan Asia. The book analyses transboundary water interaction as a ‘case study’ for advancing public international law in order to fulfil its responsibility of promoting international peace and security.


"The importance of enhancing water security at multiple levels is becoming increasingly recognised. However, few studies offer in-depth analysis of the interplay between international law and water security, particularly within a transboundary water context. Through its fresh conceptualisation of security, its artful analytical framework, and rich case studies, this book therefore stands out as a major contribution to the water security discourse." - Alistair Rieu-Clarke, Centre for Water Law, Policy and Science, University of Dundee, UK

"…worthwhile reading for legal scholars and water experts alike in its case for contemporary development of international water law (IWL). Of particular value is the transformation of the vague concept of ‘water security’ into a methodological tool, which operationalizes a popular term often used in water policy with little understanding of – or guidance to – its application… While intended for legal scholars, the book is useful for readers of any discipline who welcome the intellectual exercise of grappling with the purpose of IWL and how it can be used to promote meaningful cooperation over freshwater. The book is not for the reader who wants detailed explanations of specific sources of IWL and the technical application of their legal provisions. This however is an overriding strength of the book, which remains accessible to the non-lawyer, while delving deeper intellectually than the traditional legal positivist." - Stephanie Hawkins in Water International (2016)

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

1.1. Life in the Anthropocene: The Disrespect for Planetary Boundaries

1.2. Water: The Gossamer Linking a Whole Web of Securities

1.3. The Relevance of International Law in Addressing Water Insecurity

1.4 Purpose, Research Question and Outline of the Book

2. Water Security: Conceptualising a Buzzword

2.1. The Changing Perception of Security

2.2. The Securitisation of Water

2.3. Water Security through a Legal Lens

3. International Law in the Water Security Discourse

3.1. The Core Elements of Water Security

3.2. The Current Framework of International Freshwater Regimes

3.3. Water Security as a Challenge to International Law

4. Hydrosolidarity: The Answer to State-Centrism?

4.1. Hydrosolidarity

4.2. The Role of International Law in Overcoming ‘(Hydro)Egoism’

4.3. Conclusion

5. Regional Common Concern: The Legal Foundation for Common Water Security

5.1. The Changing Landscape of International Law

5.2. Natural Resources and the Concept of Communality in International Law

5.3. Regional Common Concern as the Legal Foundation of Water Security

5.4. How to Materialise Regional Common Concern

5.5. Conclusion

6. Water Security in Himalayan Asia

6.1. The Particularities of the Region

6.2. The Rise of Two Global Powerhouses

6.3. International Water Law and Himalayan Water Security

6.4. A Regional Legal Framework for Water Security?

7. Conclusion

7.1. The Contribution of the 4A Operational Methodology

7.2. Water Security and the Future of International Law

7.3. A Research Agenda for International Water Security

About the Author

Bjørn-Oliver Magsig is a research fellow at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Department of Environmental and Planning Law (Leipzig, Germany), focusing on international environmental law, water diplomacy, and the link between natural resources and international security. His research critically assesses the current legal regime of transboundary watercourses against the backdrop of regional security and instability and aims to contribute to the evolving body of public international law. Bjørn-Oliver has extensive project experience on law and transboundary river basins, serves on the Managing Board of the European Environmental Law Forum (EELF) and is a member of the IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law.

About the Series

Earthscan Studies in Water Resource Management

Earthscan Studies in Water Resource Management
This series includes a wide range of inter-disciplinary approaches to water resource management, integrating perspectives from both social and natural sciences. It includes research monographs and titles aimed at professionals, NGOs and policy-makers. Authors or editors of potential new titles should contact Hannah Ferguson, Editor ([email protected]).

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / Environmental
LAW / International
LAW / Natural Resources
NATURE / Natural Resources