Bruce Lankford

Systems & people-centred water and irrigation

Analysis of transboundary water law

Spreadsheet analysis of allocation of water in transboundary rivers

This work has now produced this publication:

Lankford B.A. 2013. Does Article 6 (Factors Relevant to Equitable and Reasonable Utilization) in the UN Watercourses Convention misdirect riparian countries? Water International. Vol 38, Issue 2, 130-145.

A powerpoint presentation of this work was made at the Dundee Water Law conference in 2012: Lankford Dundee ERU June 2012 Final

I provide a number of Excel spreadsheet exercises that give insights regarding how water might be allocated between and within sectors and transboundary riparians. These, with powerpoint presentations, explain the democratic, discursive nature of iterative decision making for appropriate water allocation. The spreadsheets are constructed with various purposes in mind a) the UN Watercourses Convention and b) ideas of benefit sharing. The main case study example employed is the Zambezi Basin in Southern Africa, though spreadsheets for the Upper Nile Basin, Mekong and Limpopo basins have been developed as well.

These exercises are part of water training programmes I am contracted to fulfil, so there are no files to download here.

Exercise 1. Sectoral water allocation in a sub-basin

A small and easily understood Excel spreadsheet exercise that takes participants through steps to allocate water between irrigation, domestic use, wetlands and hydropower in a medium sized sub-basin within a nation. Role-playing is employed towards the end of the exercise to stimulate discussions regarding trade-offs and a balanced approach.

Exercise 2. AHP Water Allocation in a transboundary basin

The AHP water allocation basin tool is an Excel spreadsheet that determines how water can be attributed to different riparian countries sharing a transboundary river basin using a version of the criteria listed in the UN Watercourses Convention. The allocation model enables country representatives to democratically vote (in terms of weighting the significance) of criteria for sharing the water resources of Transboundary Rivers. The model employs a version of analytical hierarchical process (AHP) – a method to weight multiple criteria that feed into a decision. The exercise is an example of establishing a hierarchy with a goal, criteria and priority scoring, explained here:

Goal = to find the greatest (or fairest) allocation of water in basin to a given country competing amongst riparians

Criteria = these are the various factors that feed into the UN Watercourse convention (e.g. runoff, population, GDP pp, GDP growth, present use, etc.)

Players establish priorities to add up to a proportional score of 1.0 (or other total). E.g. runoff (0.8), population (0.2), others = 0.0. Runoff is the main factor in this example.

Water resources are volumetrically allocated depending on different criteria reflecting how a country might seek to influence allocation in the whole basin. To use the model, a user needs to work on the first sheet and perform the calculation for only their representative country deciding to increase or decrease criteria scoring to greatly advantage their country/state. After proposing a balance or distribution of weightings for the criteria in this way, all country users then place the percentages for each criterion into the second sheet for all countries. Then the second sheet calculates a mean of all the results imported from previous calculations of each country. The mean outcome is directly transferred to the third sheet. This third stage allows all users to collectively read the final results in the form of a pie-chart of water allocation between the riparian countries. A discussion then follows.

Exercise 3. The sectoral benefit-sharing transboundary spreadsheet

A second transboundary spreadsheet exercise is then introduced. This model constructs a nation’s water demand from sectoral demands (irrigation, industry, population, environmental and hydropower) to establish and discuss transboundary negotiations. Similar to the first exercise, participants work in groups representing the eight riparians of the Zambezi Basin and enter into an iterative process of first deciding their own country data to boost economic and livelihood benefits and then secondly into a ‘basin-wide’ plan of all country sectoral demands to boost and then share benefits. The value in dollars per cubic meter of water consumed is calculated.

The contrasts and outcomes between exercises 1, 2 and 3 are very instructive for all participants in showing how the design of the water allocation decision aid tramlines and steers the discussion held and decisions that flow from that.   The message participants take away is that the river basin boards need to be vigilant in how they commission and then utilise their river basin models.