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Benefit sharing is “any action designed to change the allocation of costs and benefits associated with cooperation” (Sadoff and Grey, 2002).

It is an approach that explicitly articulates the options for water sharing and the resulting trade-offs, with the ultimate goal of promoting the sustainable use of transboundary water resources. Emphasis is placed on the development of ‘baskets of benefits’ at a regional level by identifying positive-sum-outcomes or win-win solutions to benefit all water sharing states.

In this context, water sharing options are framed as development opportunities:

  • Hydropower production and power trading (geothermal)
  • Primary production
  • Urban and Industrial development
  • Environment and Ecosystem Services
  • Others – context specific (Education, Health, Land, Cultural etc)

Sadoff and Grey (2002) describe four (4) types of cooperative benefits:

  • Ecosystem management: cooperation will enable better management of ecosystems, provide benefits to the river/aquifer, and underpin all other benefits that can be then derived.
  • Economic growth: efficient, cooperative management and development of shared rivers can yield major benefits from the river/aquifer, for example, in increased food and energy production.
  • Political stability: as tensions between co-riparian states will always be present, to a greater or lesser extent, and tensions generate costs, cooperation on an international river will in fact reduce costs because of the river/aquifer.
  • Regional integration: international rivers can be catalytic agents, resulting in cooperation that yields benefits beyond the river/aquifer.

Recommended Reading

Sadoff CW & Grey D (2002). Beyond the river: the benefits of cooperation on international rivers. Water Policy: 4 (p389-403)

Wolf AT (ed) (2010) Sharing Water Sharing Benefits: Working towards effective transboundary water resources management. IHP Division of Water Sciences

UNECE report: quantifying benefits of cooperation