Water flowing from a cane

Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law & Governance Areas of expertise

Fresh water´╗┐

Recognises the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights." UNGA Resolution 64/292.

SCELG’s work on freshwater explores access to clean water as a human right, together with many other aspects, including a specific focus on transboundary matters and on water as a core component of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Freshwater, both surface and groundwater, is crucial for life on earth and for ecosystems to flourish and sustain themselves. Freshwater does not have an ad-hoc international legal framework but can be found around a fragmented number of agreements and institutions, not all of them freshwater-focused. At the same time an emerging human right to access to clean water and sanitation is slowly but steadily emerging. SCELG covers all of these aspects of freshwater law and governance, but transboundary water law and governance, both surface and groundwater, is very much at the heart of SCELG’s work on freshwater.

Other aspects that we work on are:

  • water and justice
  • water and sustainable development
  • virtual water (water and international trade law)

97% of available freshwater resources on the planet is stored underground and often can be found in aquifers that are present in two or more countries. With more than 500 transboundary aquifers and groundwater bodies identified, and only a handful of ad-hoc transboundary aquifer legal arrangements, the emerging law and governance of transboundary aquifers is an area of growing interest for SCELG and one in which we are heavily involved in collaboration with leading global players, such as UNESCO-IHP.”

SCELG’s work on freshwater builds on its members' collaborations with key global players, such as UNESCO-IHP (International Hydrological Programme) and the International Water Resources Association, amongst others. SCELG’s work on freshwater also chimes with the Scottish Government Hydronation agenda.

Research is carried out both independently and as part of externally funded projects looking at groundwater governance and the role of fair and equitable benefit-sharing in the context of transboundary water law.

Finally, work on freshwater benefits from partnerships with global practitioners and with leading centres and institutions within the University of Strathclyde such as the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering and the Strathclyde International Public Policy Institute.


Check our publications in the area of fresh water here.