Marine and freshwater systems, including surface waters and groundwater, constitute the world's water resources, which provide drinking water, sustenance, income, transportation routes and other amenities to a majority of the human population. Much of the Earth's water resources is shared by two or more countries (e.g., 261 international river basins comprise 45% of the earth's total land area; 70% of the world's 50 large marine ecosystems, where 95% of the world's fish are caught).
Poorly managed and uncoordinated human activities across sectors are threatening these shared water resources internationally and the livelihoods of billions of people who depend on them. Major threats include sea and land-based pollution, depletion of freshwater resources, habitat loss, introduction of exotic species, and over-harvesting of living and non-living aquatic resources.
Disputes over shared water resources have a long history. Water has been used as a tool and weapon of conflict, access to water has been a source of dispute and contention, and major water development projects have led to violence and civil strife. As a number of international waters agreements demonstrate, shared waters can also be a source of cooperation. This is particularly evident today with the increase in the number of initiatives related to aquifers, lakes, rivers, coasts and ocean management regimes, as well as of international waters institutions committed to bilateral and/or multilateral management of transboundary water resources.
International waters are one of several focal areas for protection and restoration projects supported by the Global Environment Facility as well as bilateral and multilateral development agencies.
|Table of contents|
Links and References
International Waters Agreements
At least ten conventions are included within the Regional Seas Program of UNEP, including:
Addressing regional freshwater issues is the 1992 Helsinki Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (UNECE/Helsinki Water Convention)
International Waters Institutions
International Waters Resources on the Web