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Equitable and Reasonable Use of Water Within the Euphrates-Tigris River Basin

January 2005

Citation: 35 ELR 10041

Issue: 1

Author: Elizabeth Burleson

I. Introduction

The principle of subsidiarity suggests that issues should be dealt with at the level upon which they can be resolved most effectively. Sharing water resources from international watercourses requires coordination among nations. The greater their interdependence, the more urgent it becomes for countries to cooperate. Within the framework of the United Nations, subsidiarity requires Parties to try to settle disputes through peaceful means. Will dynamic approaches to sharing water be able to overcome Middle Eastern animosity over the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers? Sustainable watershed management involves understanding a given drainage basin, making informed decisions, and implementing egalitarian agreements between upstream and downstream riparians. Once the "cradle of civilization," Mesopotamia thrived upon human ingenuity and stewardship of water. Euphrates-Tigris River Basin States can avert conflict over increasing water scarcity by crafting integrated water resources measures based on equitable and sustainable utilization.

While water is one of the most abundant substances on the globe, humans can use less than 0.01% of the water in the world. The United Nations (U.N.) Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) notes that, "[i]n the past hundred years, the world population has tripled while world demand for water has increased sevenfold." U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan points out that, "one person in six lives without regular access to safe drinking water." According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), approximately 10% of the world's freshwater is used domestically, 20% by industry, and 70% by agriculture.

Elizabeth Burleson is an attorney focusing on international water law and international dispute resolution. She received her LL.M. at the London School of Economics (2004), and her J.D. at the University of Connecticut School of Law (1999). Ms. Burleson is on the Water Committee of the International Bar Association, and she has written environmental reports for the United Nations (U.N.) Children's Fund, the U.N. Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, and the U.N. Environment Program.

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