Transcending political boundaries, river basins shared by two or more countries pose particularly
challenging management problems. In this context, the unifying principles of integrated watershed
management clash with the forces of state sovereignty. Evidence suggests that the likelihood
of political tensions is related to the interaction between variability or rates of change within
a basin and the institutional capacity1 to absorb that change, often exemplified by treaties
or international water body management organizations (henceforth referred to as river basin
organizations or RBOs2) (Wolf, et. al 2003, Yoffe et al. 2003, Yoffe et al. 2004). The increase
in future water variability forecasted by most climate change scenarios is one form of change
that may alter current hydropolitical balances, affecting in turn the ability of states to meet their
water treaty commitments. This may raise serious questions about the adequacy of many existing
transboundary arrangements and lead countries to set up new international water agreements.
Historically, extreme events of conflict over water have been statistically somewhat more frequent
in regions characterized by high interannual hydrologic variability (Wolf, Stahl, and Macomber
2003, Stahl 2005). Preliminary quantitative findings also demonstrate a correlation between
variability—measured in the form of precipitation variation across time, and inter-country
grievances—measured as the intensity of the grievance among states (Dinar et al. 2008).
However, the existence of treaty/RBO provisions to deal with water variability, even if imperfect,
can help to reduce tensions that may arise during extreme climatic events by providing riparian
countries with specific mechanisms and an established framework suited to facing climate
uncertainty (Wolf, et. al. 2003a, Odom & Wolf 2008, Fischhendler 2004).