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Fossil Aquifers: A Common Heritage of Mankind
By Renee Martin-Nagle
Overutilization of groundwater, including fossil aquifers, is becoming an urgent problem, as more than half of the world's population depends on groundwater for basic needs such as drinking water. Many freshwater systems lie within the borders of a single sovereign nation, but flowing water does not respect national borders and those freshwater systems traveling over international boundaries fall into the realm of international water law. Issues of competing sovereignty arise when water flows across borders, with nations usually claiming exclusive rights over any water falling within their own jurisdictions. Some writers are beginning to suggest that transboundary ecosystem governance by sovereign nations should be replaced by governance through collaborative institutions consisting of a larger community of citizens, nongovernmental organizations, scientists, and scholars, but in general the body of international groundwater law remains nascent. In particular, the importance of water-rich, but non-recharging, fossil aquifers is now becoming clear, but their unique and fragile nature demands more deliberate and communal practices and there is not yet a consensus on how they should be addressed. This Article tracks the history of international groundwater law, summarizes the current status of some of the major fossil aquifers, and proposes a way to manage these freshwater systems in the future.
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Keywords: None associated
Content Type: Article
Media Type: Print
Author: Renee Martin-Nagle
Publish Date: January 2011
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