Integration in the management of international waters: economic perspectives on a global policy discourse.
In recent years an emergent global policy discourse has promoted the concept of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) as a strategy for the sustainable management of international waters. However, integration remains a considerable challenge in large international river basins. This article addresses the relevance of the global discourse on IWRM, asking how much integration can be expected and how much integration is desirable in international water management. The article presents a novel compilation of eighty-six international river basin organizations and examines their degree of integration in terms of three dimensions: membership, substantive scope, and form. More particularly, the article examines the integration problem from an economic perspective, asking whether integration serves the self-interest of the respective riparian states. The empirical evidence highlights the difficulties of integration, as the majority of international river basin organizations remain narrow in membership and scope. Economic considerations suggest that voluntary cooperation in river basins is institutionally demanding and that the degree of integration depends on the problem at hand. Hence, the challenge for international waters management is to search for the economically desirable degree of integration in each case.