Understanding and Reducing the Risks of Climate Change for Transboundary Waters

This report, produced by the Pacific Institute, outlines some of the risks that climate change poses to transboundary water agreements. The report offers background information on transboundary rivers and aquifers and describes some of the institutional structures that have developed to manage them, including international guidelines and specific transboundary agreements. An overview of climate change is offered, with a focus on how transboundary water management could better adapt to and incorporate climate change impacts. The report concludes with a series of recommendations to reduce the risks that climate change poses to transboundary water resources.

Most transboundary water agreements, however, are based on the assumption that future water supply and quality will not change. In fact, surface water runoff, groundwater, floods and drought, water quality, and water demand will all potentially be altered by future climate change. The report offers potential ways to "climate-proof" transboundary agreements, mostly focusing on the issue of water scarcity. These strategies fall into four categories:

  1. Flexible allocation strategies
  2. Drought provisions
  3. Amendment and review procedures
  4. Joint management institutions

Joint institutions can facilitate climate change adaptation through activities such as the development of common hydrologic models and scenarios. The report recommends that riparian countries develop climate impact, vulnerability, and adaptation assessments.

The report concludes with four case studies that demonstrate the range of potential impacts of climate change and the degree of integration into transboundary water management:

  • Nile River Basin
  • Mekong River Basin
  • Colorado River Basin
  • Guarani Aquifer



Publication Date: December 2009

Authors or Affiliated Users:

  • Heather Cooley
  • Juliet Christian-Smith
  • Peter H. Gleick
  • Lucy Allen
  • Michael Cohen

Related Organizations:


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Assessment


Go To Resource