Water scarcity has increasingly been coupled with international security. Rather than water scarcity in itself, water-related disputes are, to a large extent, caused by the way in which water and its use is governed. Governing water inevitably involves governing conflicting interests.
Very often waterways are used simultaneously by several countries, which makes countries dependent on each other. Different countries may allocate water for different purposes, be it hydropower, agriculture, or industry. Excessive use of water by one country can lead to a decreasing supply of water to the neighbouring state. Moreover, pollution from one country may lead to the degradation of the water quality in another.
Due to the transboundary nature of rivers, water co-operation is an important issue for the relations of neighbouring countries. Downstream countries are affected by the activities of the upstream countries related to the quantity or quality of water. Water co-operation can take many forms and may include the issues of water quantity and quality, infrastructure as well as sharing the costs of maintenance of facilities along the water stream.
In order to avoid disagreements and tensions, water should be managed through established mechanisms for regulation and monitoring. Many countries lack such mechanisms as well as the capacity to operate them, which might lead to tensions, undermine trust and create challenging relations between neighbouring countries. Therefore, sound water management can help to promote security and co-operation among states sharing transboundary water resources.