Environmental governance of transboundary water resources

The Water (WAT) Program has developed comparative approaches for improving environmental governance of transboundary water resources along the Rio Grande/Río Bravo Basin and the Colorado River Basin, along the border between the US and Mexico.

© Françoise De Valera James | Dreamstime

© Françoise De Valera James | Dreamstime

As part of a research endeavor spanning the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo Basin, WAT has developed a qualitative method to improve water management adaptation and stakeholder involvement.

This research aims to assess stakeholders’ perspectives and to build potential policy directions based on their insights. The method considers stakeholders’ competing perspectives and interests regarding water management and environmental protection [1]. This is particularly important in this region, as the US-Mexico water resources framework is subject to broad interpretation, which can effect environmental, economical, and socio-political issues.

Based on this research, WAT was able to demonstrate that the US-Mexico water regime has given good results in terms of quantitative water allocation in the past. However, the system could be improved if both countries agree on the need to adapt the water resources regime for the area, and to jointly advance water resources sustainability and management in order to better respond to current and future needs. The potential to move forward with a new institutional arrangement within the current allocation framework already exists [2].


[1] Nava LF & Sandoval-Solis S (2014). Multi-tiered Governance of the Rio Grande/Bravo Basin: The Fragmented Water Resources Management Model of the United States and Mexico. International Journal of Water Governance, 2(1):85-106.

[2] Nava, LF, et al. (Not yet published) Existing opportunities to adapt the Rio Grande/Bravo Basin Water Resources Allocation Regime. 


University of California, Davis, USA

New Mexico State University (NMSU), USA

Université Laval, Canada

Print this page

Last edited: 03 March 2016

Research program


You will miss the river when it runs dry: Water governance at the U.S. – Mexico border

Further information



International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313