Date of Award

May 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Freshwater Sciences and Technology

First Advisor

Jenny Kehl

Committee Members

Ramiro Berardo, Tim Ehlinger


Conflict, International Water Conflict, Large Lakes, Transbondary, Transboundary Lakes, Treaty


Lakes are the largest reservoir of available surface freshwater on Earth, representing an irreplaceable ecosystem, essential for all life. Despite the crucial need for these lakes, there has been minimal research focused on their health and security. There are over 1,600 transboundary lakes worldwide, which do not follow political borders and thus result in governance and management challenges. International water treaties have been cited to be a main mechanism for cooperation between riparian countries. This study researches the impact of international water treaties as well as economic, political, and environmental variables on transboundary water conflict between riparian countries of the 35 largest transboundary lakes. The goal is to understand if the implementation of an international water treaty impacts the occurrence of conflict between riparian countries of large transboundary lakes. Datasets were created from existing international water treaty and conflict databases focused on transboundary waters. The created datasets were used to analyze the relationship between treaties and conflicts on a primary focus, annual, and lake basis. Furthermore, an event analysis of case studies was completed for each lake. There were 52 international water treaties, focused on joint management, water quality, and water quantity implemented between 1990 and 2013. Between 1990 and 2013, 53 international water conflicts occurred with the primary focuses of water quantity and border issues. The content of the treaty is an essential aspect to understand the effectiveness of preventing conflict after implementation; the majority, 28, of the 53 conflicts that occurred after a treaty was implemented were not related to the content of that treaty. The majority of the international lake treaties lack vital components for successful compliance including enforcement, conflict resolution, and monitoring. Overall, the implementation of a treaty does not result in a disappearance of conflict between riparian countries. The specific details of the treaty, as they relate to conflicts are the best indicators of successful and effective compliance of the treaties.