Research Articles

The key indicators of transboundary water apportionment based on international laws and cases

  • 1. Asian International Rivers Center, Yunnan University, Kunming 650091, China;
    2. Yunnan Key Lab of International Rivers and Trans-boundary Eco-security, Kunming 650091, China
Feng Yan (1967-), Ph.D and Professor, specialized in coordinated management of international river basins related to international water law and water policy, natural resources sustainable uses in mountainous areas. E-mail:

Received date: 2013-03-01

  Revised date: 2013-03-31

  Online published: 2013-08-15

Supported by

National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41171134;National Social Science Funds Special Commission Project of China, No.2007@ZH005;Key Project of National Soft Science of China, No.2700ZXQ4D166


Transboundary water, more competitive utilization and uncertain availability under the globalization trend, the issue of its apportionment which directly impacts national benefits of each riparian state is becoming one of the important topics in the world. Water is scarce in China, the most important upstream state in Asia, and this task has to be thought over in the coming future. Based on "International Freshwater Treaties Database" (1820-2007) by Oregon State University, and publications and reports on transboundary water utilization and management since 1999, 28 indicators of water apportionment adopted in 49 international treaties and cases in 1864-2002 are divided into 6 types, the spatial and temporal characteristics of the adopted indicators are analyzed in order to find the key indicator(s) of transboundary water apportionment. The major results include: the major adopted indicators, have significant differences among 5 regions/continents, the indicators at rank first and second place in the developed region (North America and Europe) according to the adopted times are "keeping minimum water flow" and "mean annual runoff", but in the developing region (Asia, Africa and South America), the ranking order of the above two indicators is reversed; the major adopted indicators in the watersheds with insufficient water are "mean annual runoff" and "keeping minimum water flow", the ones in the watersheds with sufficient water are "keeping minimum water flow" and "maximum water intake"; the international treaties signed from the first phase to the fourth phase, the developing process shows a progress of "fewer-increasing a lot-decreasing rapidly-equation basically", the regional distribution of the treaties shifts mainly from the developed region to the developing one, especially to Asia and Africa; the major adopted indicators shifts from "keeping minimum water flow" and "mean annual runoff" in 1864-1945, to "keeping minimum water flow" and "maximum water intake" in 1946-1971, then to "hydraulic facility operation" and "mean annual runoff" in 1972-1991, and finally to "keeping minimum water flow" and "mean annual runoff" in 1992-2002, the process shows similar a loop. Finally, the key indicator on transboundary water apportionment can be determined as "keeping minimum water flow".

Cite this article

FENG Yan, HE Daming, LI Yungang . The key indicators of transboundary water apportionment based on international laws and cases[J]. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 2013 , 23(4) : 710 -720 . DOI: 10.1007/s11442-013-1039-1


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