Strathclyde Centre Environmental Law GovernanceTransboundary Aquifer Incubator

97% of available freshwater resources worldwide are trapped underground. Groundwater is a crucial natural resource for the well-being of people and ecosystems alike, and a key driver for urban sustainable development.

Groundwater can be found in aquifers that often straddle national boundaries. There are currently 592 transboundary aquifers (TBAs) and groundwater bodies identified in the world, but only 6 TBAs possess a legal arrangement for their management.

In the Incubator we explore the emerging governance structures for TBAs stemming from general principles of international law, the work of the UN International Law Commission and regional and bilateral state practice. In particular, we focus on:

  • the normative package stemming from the relationship between the UNILC draft articles on the Law of Transboundary Aquifers, the UN Watercourses Convention and the UNECE Model Provisions on Transboundary Groundwater
  • transboundary aquifer law and justice
  • governance frameworks for offshore aquifers

The Incubator monitors all TBA legal arrangements, but has specific legal expertise on the following TBAs:

  • the Guarani Aquifer System
  • the Stampriet Aquifer
  • the Trifinio Aquifer
  • TBAs in Malawi

The Incubator works closely with non-legal expertise and partners both in the University of Strathclyde and outside. Close links have been established with the Engineering Department at Strathclyde and Incubator members collaborate actively with UNESCO-IHP, IWRA and the Scottish Government.