The allocation of scarce, freshwater resources is complicated by the transboundary nature of most, significant, surface water sources. These jurisdictional challenges exist across national borders and within federal nations like the United States. An obvious and long advocated solution is the creation of river basin authorities to bridge jurisdictional boundaries. This paper examines the rationale for river basin water management, describes several examples of river basin management regimes in the United States and other nations, and explains why many such schemes have failed or experienced limited success. Although there is much enthusiasm for collaborative integrated management of water and associated river basin resources, particularly in Europe and on the part of international organizations, established river basin management regimes usually have been long on process and short on the resolution of transboundary disagreements. The central problem is that water management regimes are seldom contemplated absent scarcity, but under circumstances of scarcity consensus is difficult to achieve absent some preexisting understanding of relative rights. On an international basis, the establishment of such rights is generally dependant on the circumstances of topography, diplomatic negotiation or force. In the United States the federal government has the authority to equitably resolve such disputes, but has often lacked the political will.
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