Book Review of Stephen C. McCaffrey, The Law of International Watercourses (2001)

Edith Brown Weiss, Georgetown University Law Center

Copyright © 2004 Cambridge University Press;


2003 was the International Year of Fresh Water. Articles increasingly appear that describe the forthcoming fresh water crisis. The UN Millennium Goals include reducing by 50 per cent by the year 2015 the percentage of people without access to fresh water. States affmned this goal at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development. Professor McCaffrey's comprehensive book on the law of international watercourses is thus very timely.

McCaffrey has written an excellent account of international water law which reflects his many years of experience as the rapporteur for the International Law Commission's work on international watercourses. He begins with the ancient roots of water law and the dimensions of the water crisis today, and then introduces the concept of the 'international watercourse system', as distinguished from international rivers or simply international watercourses, which provides the focus for his analysis. McCaffrey pressed successfully at the ILC to extend the term 'international watercourse' to 'international watercourse system' so that certain ground water aquifers and surface water tributaries could be included within the ILC draft Convention, which served as the basis for the subsequent UN Watercourse Convention. Ground waters unconnected physically to surface waters, whether or not transboundary, are not included, nor are relevant recharge areas of the aquifers.