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The United States and Mexico are geographic neighbors with high economic asymmetry, but also a shared history and intense social, cultural, economic, and security relations. Over 15 million people reside along the U.S.-Mexico border and share an environment that includes many watersheds and air basins transcending political boundaries. Pollution impacts on both sides of the border have required a coordinated response at the local, state, and federal level.

At the federal level, a joint institution was created in in 1889 as the International Boundary Commission and later renamed the International Boundary and Water Commission to provide binational solutions to issues that arise during the application of U.S.-Mexico treaties regarding boundary demarcation, right to transboundary waters, sanitation, water quality, and flood control in the border region. Two additional international institutions were created in 1994 as a side agreement to NAFTA in response to NGO input. The Border Environment Cooperation Commission and the North American Development Bank (later merged into one organization) were created to assist local communities to coordinate with state and federal agencies with a mandated to improve the environmental conditions of the U.S.-Mexico border region in order to advance the well-being of residents in both nations.

The purpose of this chapter is to better understand the role of these binational organizations in water diplomacy and conflict management in the broader context of cooperation over shared water resources. The intent is to assess through a theoretical framework how these organizations have contributed to the prevention, mitigation, or solution of water conflict specifically along the Rio Grande, which spans 2,000 kilometers along U.S Mexico border.

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This book chapter is published by Routledge in River Basin Organizations in Water Diplomacy on November 20, 2020, available online:


Anoulak Kittikhoun & Susanne Schmeier

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River Basin Organizations in Water Diplomacy

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