Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal/Potchefstroomse Elektroniese Regsblad

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Water security and international law

Tuomas Kuokkanen


The article explores water security from an international law point of view. The article argues that in order to better understand water security it is important to focus on the function of international water law. Even though water security is a relatively recent concept it was latent in the process of the evolution of international water law.
In addition, the article examines the relationship between man and water from the point of view of water security. The article seeks to answer the question: how does international water law deal with that relationship? Is water only an object to be utilised and protected or has the relationship become more complex and ambivalent through the occurrence of various extreme events.
Furthermore, the article places the concept of water security into a historiographical and substantive context. It explores three broad approaches by international law to water issues: general international law, the regulatory approach and the  management approach. The article argues that they are all relevant to water security.
Finally, the article seeks to demonstrate that even though water security has emerged as a new notion, this does not mean that international law does not include rules and principles relevant for water security. Indeed, many general principles of international law are applicable in the context of water security. In addition, specific regulations dealing with water quantity and quality issues have been developed in international environmental law, although they are not necessarily labelled as water security rules. Moreover, various risk management methods have been elaborated to deal with water-related disasters and crises. Reciprocally, water security arguments are not necessarily new notions but rather reflect already existing concepts and principles.

Keywords: Water security; international law; international environmental law; water law.
AJOL African Journals Online