Governing Iberian Rivers: from bilateral management to common basin governance?

Original Paper


Traditionally, international water resources have been managed by riparian states based essentially on a technical hydraulic approach, addressing navigation concerns, water flows at the border and shared hydraulic structures, besides the definition of political borders. During the 1990s, the possibility of a paradigm change emerged, where a “technical hydraulic management approach” seemed to be giving way to a more “political environmental governance approach”. Yet, in many cases, this change did not ensue. This article argues that several riparians are trapped in stalemate due to a too strong sovereign approach to their water relations. Adopting a critical perspective on hydro-hegemony, this article argues that this framework of analysis is too limited since it is embedded in a Westphalian concept of sovereignty. To support this argument, the article draws on the Iberian Peninsula water politics. These riparians are still embedded in notions of territorial sovereignty, not being able to take on a holistic water basin governance regime embedded on considerations of equity, human rights and social justice. The article concludes that it is vital to move beyond a static sovereignty-based analysis of riparian relations and engage in a dynamic discussion of different water governance models and their consequences concerning peace and development.


Water governance Portugal Spain Hydro-hegemony European Union Sovereignty 



The public Portuguese Electricity Company


Spanish National Hydrological Plan


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Economics and Centre for Social StudiesUniversity of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal

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