Pollution of International Watercourses - Inland Water Pollution

Seminar Paper, 1994

12 Pages, Grade: 2


Table of Content:

1. Introduction

2. Rules and laws dealing with the problem
2.1. Soft law
2.1.1. Helsinki rules about the use of water from international watercourses
2.1.2. UN Convention on the protection and use of transboundary watercourses and international lakes (Helsinki Convention)
2.1.3. Convention for the protection of international watercourses of the Council of Europe
2.1.4. Basic rules of the ECE about the prevention and battle against water pollution including border-crossing pollution
2.2. Examples of bilateral and multilateral agreements on watercourses and drainage basins
2.2.1. Declaration about the cooperation of the Danube States in questions of water management, especially the protection of the water of River Danube against pollution
2.2.2. Lake Constance
2.2.3. River Rhine
2.2.4. Canada and USA
2.2.5. Legislation of the European Community

3. Conclusions

4. Literature

1. Introduction

Pollution of inland waters is not a recent phenomenon. Already the river Tiber was seriously polluted by the filth of ancient Rome. However, it is since the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century that the phenomenon began to assume proportions largely unknown before that time.

A considerable increase of the growth of population, combined with a concentration of the population in cities, the rise of the industrial revolution, the growing demand for more and new industrial and agricultural products, the construction of piped water supply systems and sanitary water facilities, and not least, the construction of sewage systems through which human and other wastes came to be carried into rivers and lakes usually without any or adequate purification, were the principal determining factors of the process.

Inadequate water protection legislation and administrative management, a certain unwillingness to hamper industrial or agricultural development, a continual shortage of purification plants, and inadequate purification techniques have in there turn led in many countries to serious water pollution problems. In the light of these developments it is not surprising, that water pollution also became a transboundary problem.

In its natural state water does not at all consist of pure water. The physical, chemical, biological, and other properties of the water in one watercourse may differ considerably from those of the water in other watercourses. These qualities are moreover even changed without human influence continuously. However most definitions of water pollution provide only the changes caused by human beings.

Pollution means the introduction or extraction into or out of the water, directly or indirectly, of solid, liquid, or gaseous substances and heat in such quantities as may cause physical, chemical and biological changes, which limit or prevent the normal utilization of the said water for communal, agricultural, fishery and other purposes. This should include changes in volume, velocity and turbulence of the water.

2. Rules and laws dealing with the problem

Originally, from the legal point of few the so-called Harmon-Doctrin dominated, which said that each State can change the watercourses on its territory as it likes. During the twentieth century the basic rule that no State is allowed to change a international watersystem without taking care on the other riparian States was established. During the second half of this century the drainage basin, including surface - and groundwater became the term of definition for water protection law. Water as such became known as shared international resource and part of the "common heritage".

Principle 21 of the UN Declaration on the Human Environment says: "States have in accordance with the charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law, the sovereign right to exploit their own resources pursuant to their own environmental policies, and the responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other states or of areas beyond the limit of national jurisdiction."

Basic academic principles for the use of watercourses including that causing pollution:

* The principle of absolute territorial sovereignty

* The physical unity of an international watercourse or water system as a source of rights and obligations of the riparian state

* The international watercourse or water system considered as a special legal entity

* Certain principles of international river law

* The principle of absolute (or restricted) territorial integrity

* Neighborship law

* The principle of non-discrimination

* Sic utere tuo ut alienum non leadas

* The principle prohibiting abuse of rights

* The concept of the international community or of the community of states and the principle of international solidarity between states

* The principle of state responsibility

The approach for dealing with water pollution on a legal basis is tried to be solved on a national basis and by agreements between riparian states. Exceptions are the European Water Charta released by the Council of Europe in 1968 , which presents a "soft low" version and the legislation of the European Union. The Rio Earth Summit brought in certain areas of inland water protection deadlines for improvement.

2.1. Soft law

The Earth Summit, Agenda 21 about the protection of the quality and supply of freshwater resources

The Earth Summit generated seven programme areas for analysing the problem of pollution of international drainage basins and set an agenda for the world community. The objectives are as follows.

* Integrated water resources development and management

By the year 2000 national action programmes have to be put in place as well as appropriate institutional structures and legal instruments. The idea of sustainable use of water resources is to be realised. By the year 2025 the targets of all subsectorial freshwater programmes have to be achieved. On the other hand the freshwater need of all countries has to be guaranteed. For the developing countries financial resources should be made available based on the provisions of the General Assembly resolution 44/228.

* Water resources assessment

This needs the availability of appropriate water resources assessment technology independent on their development and including methods for impacts assessment of freshwater resources on climate change. The development of a policy and management on these data. The guarantee for the availability of information on the quality and quantity of the water to users. The guarantee of availability of enough qualified staff and to install a fully operational service upon high density hygrometric networks. By the year 2000 the finishing of the studies about the feasibility of installing water resources assessment services should be finished.


Excerpt out of 12 pages


Pollution of International Watercourses - Inland Water Pollution
University of Vienna  (Institut für Völkerrecht)
Konversatorium Internationale Environmental Policy
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
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The essay provides an overview of the policies in force regarding inland water pollution as of 1994. It may considered as fully up to date except of the European Water Framework Directive.
pollution, international, watercourses, inland, water
Quote paper
Mag. Ing. Ferdinand Kaser EUR ING EPB (Author), 1994, Pollution of International Watercourses - Inland Water Pollution, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/211765


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