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This publication contains a variety of international legal instruments on groundwater resources, both transboundary and domestic. The extent to which each instrument covers groundwater varies; some deal exclusively with this resource whereas others contain merely a passing reference to the subject.

Some instruments are binding, others are non-binding. Among the binding ones are global, multi- and bilateral international treaties and agreements, inter-state agreements of Australia and the United States of America and directives of the European Community. The non-binding legal instruments emanate from a variety of governmental and non-governmental sources. While some reflect binding law, others indicate law-in-the-making, or are pointers to the future direction of the international law and policy of groundwater resources.

A predecessor to the present collection is the book International Groundwater Law edited by Ludwik A. Teclaff and Albert E. Utton (London, Rome, New York: Oceana Publishers, Inc., 1981). The instruments included in that book have not been reproduced in this publication.

Arrangement of the Materials

The material included in this publication has been divided in four chapters. Chapter II covers all international agreements which deal exclusively with groundwater resources. Other than those featured in International Groundwater Law, by Ludwik A. Teclaff and Albert E. Utton, only three legal instruments - all multilateral - could be identified. Chapter III contains treaties which include provisions on groundwater within the larger scope of each instrument. These are set out according to their geographic scope from global to multilateral to bilateral. The multilateral instruments, in turn, have been subdivided by geographic scope into regional treaties and treaties concerning a specific river or lake basin. The bilateral treaties have been arranged in alphabetical order, by pairs of states parties. In all, twenty-four legal instruments can be found in this chapter. Chapter IV includes interstate agreements, i.e., legal instruments concluded between member states of a federal country, which either deal exclusively with groundwater or reflect attention to it within their broader scope. One of these was concluded between states of the United States of America, and five by states of Australia. Finally, Chapter V contains other legal instruments: two European Community directives and a proposal for a directive, as well as a selection of eleven non-binding instruments, including three by non-governmental organizations. The proposed European Community Directive on the Protection of Groundwater Against Pollution has exceptionally been included in this publication in view of its apparent relevance, notwithstanding its draft status at the time of going to print.

With the exception already indicated as to bilateral treaties, the legal instruments within each chapter and sub-chapter have been arranged in chronological order.

Presentation of Selected Instruments

The instruments which deal exclusively with a specific aquifer have been reproduced in full. With respect to all other instruments, only those parts which directly or indirectly address groundwater have been retained. The selection of relevant parts inevitably reflects a degree of judgment. In their choice the editors have drawn upon FAO expertise in hydro-geological and related sciences.

As a general rule, provisions concerning institutional arrangements, the settlement of disputes, final clauses, and other matters of a strictly procedural nature have been systematically omitted from this publication. Maps and annexes of highly technical content have not been reproduced either. Whenever entire articles, sections, annexes and maps have been left out, their headings have been retained marked as [ ], so that the reader would have an overview of the full scope of the relevant instrument. Where only part of an article is omitted, it is replaced by an ellipsis (...).

Parties and Entry into Force

The states parties to the Groundwater Agreements (chapter II), to the Bilateral Treaties (chapter III.iii), and to the Interstate Agreements (chapter IV) are indicated immediately before the title of the relevant legal instrument. In view of their large numbers, the states parties and/or signatories to Global Conventions (chapter III.i) and to Multilateral Treaties (chapter III.ii) are listed in a footnote. A distinction is made between states parties and signatories (the latter being identified with an (s)), whenever the information was available to the editors. If known, information on the entry into force of legally binding instruments is provided in a footnote.

Sources and References

FAOLEX, FAO's on-line database of domestic natural resources legislation and international freshwater treaties ( htm), the International Treaties & Compacts database hosted by Oregon State University (, other internet sources as well as published international legal materials, notably the United Nations Treaty Series (UNTS) and International Legal Materials (ILM), were used in the research phase of this project. Additional instruments have been obtained through the editors' informal network of resource persons.

Additional Information

The texts of the legal instruments reproduced here are faithful to the texts which have been retrieved from the referenced sources. Obvious spelling errors and other textual errors have not been corrected, but have been highlighted by the word [sic]. Footnotes indicated by an asterisk have been inserted by the editors and are not part of the original texts.


For all the care and attention to detail the editors have invested in this publication, there can be no pretence of exhaustiveness or of definitiveness to it. Important legal instruments may have been missed in the search, errors of judgment may have been made in the selection of parts of any given legal instrument, or other mistakes may have crept in. The editors invite the readership to flag such errors and omissions to them, in view of a subsequent edition and update of this publication.

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