Statement at the 74th General Assembly Sixth Committee Agenda Item 85: The Law of Transboundary Aquifers

David Bigge, Attorney Adviser
Office of the Legal Adviser
Washington, D.C.
October 22, 2019


Thank you, Chair.

The United States continues to believe that the International Law Commission’s work on transboundary aquifers constituted an important advance in providing a possible framework for the reasonable use and protection of underground aquifers, which are playing an increasingly important role as water sources for human populations.

There is still much to learn about transboundary aquifers. Specific aquifer conditions and state practices vary widely. The United States therefore continues to believe that context-specific arrangements provide the best way to address pressures on transboundary groundwaters in aquifers, as opposed to refashioning the draft articles into a global framework treaty or into principles. States concerned should take into account the provisions of these draft articles when negotiating appropriate bilateral or regional arrangements for the proper management of transboundary aquifers.

Numerous factors might appropriately be taken into account in any specific negotiation, such as hydrological characteristics of the aquifer at issue; present uses and expectations regarding future uses; climate conditions and expectations; and economic, social and cultural considerations. These factors will vary in each particular set of circumstances, and maintaining the articles as a resource in draft form seems to us the best way of ensuring that the draft articles will be a useful resource for states in all circumstances.

Further, many aspects of the draft articles go beyond current law and practice, and should be carefully considered by States in context-specific arrangements.

We therefore support commending the draft articles to the attention of governments, and encouraging states concerned to make appropriate bilateral or regional agreements or arrangements for the proper management of their transboundary aquifers, taking into account the provisions of the draft articles. With respect to this agenda item, the United States position has not changed since its last statement.