“The history of international water treaties dates as far back as 2500 BC, when the two Sumerian city-states of Lagash and Umma crafted an agreement ending a water dispute along the Tigris River – often said to be the first treaty of any kind.”
Today, international water partnerships in the Middle East are, once again, facing huge hurdles because the water requirements of certain countries in the region demand that they engage in the construction of multiple projects along rivers or oblige an upstream country to build dams to meet anticipated water shortages. Examples of such cases include Iraq and Turkey with Ilisu Dam on the Tigris River; Egypt and Ethiopia with the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (aka the Nahdha Dam) on the Blue Nile. The countries in question went on to construct projects on those rivers to take maximum advantage of available water resources either to irrigate larger areas of agricultural land and/or to build hydropower plants, and in the process also benefiting from the export of excess capacity, or to meet food and energy shortages.
International Water Partnerships between such countries also face many legal problems, particularly among the countries which share rivers or seas. In the case of seas, the problems relate to territorial waters or sea borders, as well as the issue of joint navigation or fishing rights. Such matters are determined by a body of international agreements and treaties in accordance with international public law and international customary rules. However, fresh water rivers are a very different matter altogether in terms of treatment under international conventions and treaties and in the way water rights are shared between the upstream and downstream countries along the same river.