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Copyright (c) 2006 Natural Resources Journal
Natural Resources Journal

ARTICLE: The Role of Customary Rules and Principles of International Environmental Law in the Protection of Shared International Freshwater Resources

Winter, 2006

46 Nat. Resources J. 157

Author

Owen MCIntyre *

Excerpt



I. Introduction

International law relating to the utilisation of shared freshwater resources has become much clearer in recent years. The principle of "equitable utilisation" is the pre-eminent rule relating to the utilisation of international watercourses. According to this rule, the determination of a reasonable and equitable regime for the utilisation of an international watercourse is usually understood in terms of a number of familiar relevant factors or criteria. 1 However, among the various factors impacting upon application of this principle, it is arguable that considerations relating to the environmental protection of international watercourses are steadily increasing in terms of their significance and complexity. This is largely due to the emergence in general and customary international law of a comprehensive suite of rules, principles, and legal concepts requiring enhanced protection of various aspects of the natural environment of international watercourses and riparian States. The normative content of such rules and principles is becoming more clearly defined, both through their ongoing elaboration into a sophisticated corpus of legal requirements and through growing understanding of their mutual relevance. Indeed, it can be argued that the normative sophistication and comprehensive coverage of general environmental rules give added "voice" to environmental concerns within the determination of a reasonable and equitable regime for the utilisation of an international watercourse. In addition, these rules and principles are increasingly supported by sophisticated rules of procedure, adding further to their normative clarity and justiciability.

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