From Rights and Needs to Interests Baskets of Benefits

Traditionally, co-riparian countries have focused on water as a commodity to be divided - a zero-sum, rights-based approach. Precedents now exist for determining formulas that equitably allocate the benefits derived from water, not the water itself - a positive-sum, integrative approach. For example, as part of the 1961 Columbia River Treaty, the United

States paid Canada for the benefits of flood control and Canada was granted rights to divert water between the Columbia and Kootenai for hydropower purposes. The result is an arrangement by which power may be exported out of the basin for gain, but the water itself may not be. Likewise, the relative nature of 'beneficial' uses is exhibited in a 1950 agreement on the Niagara, flowing between the USA and Canada, which provides for a greater flow of the famous falls during 'show times' of summer daylight hours, when tourist dollars are worth more per cubic meter than the alternative use in hydropower generation.

In many water-related treaties, water issues are dealt with alone, separate from any other political or resource issues between countries. By separating the two realms of 'high' (political) and 'low' (resource economical) politics, or by ignoring other resources which might be included in an agreement, some have argued that the process is either likely to fail, as in the case of the 1955 Johnston accords on the Jordan, or likely to more often achieve a suboptimum development arrangement, as is currently the case on the Indus agreement, signed in 1960. However, linkages are being made increasingly between water and politics, and between water and other resources. These multi-resource linkages may offer more opportunities for creative solutions to be generated, allowing for greater economic efficiency through a 'basket' of benefits.

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