Q&A: International Waters Management

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edit  ·  Q&A CompilationInternational Waters Management (Q&A)
The Q&A's (questions and answers) in this compilation are originally inspired by a set of priority topics from a needs survey and subsequent "clinics" discussions by participants of the 4th Biennial GEF International Waters Conference - Cape Town 2007. This constitutes an innovative attempt to developing a broadly shared, joint knowledge base on pertinent issues in "International Waters Management", using the advantages of a Wiki to promote a user-driven collaborative approach. The intent is to let this knowledge base grow, in a participant-driven matter. Contributers are very welcome. Please register with the WaterWiki Administrator to get editing rights.


What's a TDA (Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis)?

TDA stands for Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis which, as indicated by its name, consists of a science-based, factual image of a given transboundary basin. It can be applied to multi-country surface water, ground water, and coastal/marine water systems and focuses on water-related concerns and opportunities that exist in these water bodies. The TDA is the first of a three step process

  1. transboundary diagnostic analysis which results in the negotiation of a
  2. strategic action program aiming at catalyzing governance reforms and investments for
  3. strategic action program implementation.

What’s the TDA process?

The TDA identifies and prioritizes transboundary waters problems, translating complex linkages and issues into manageable components. Working with national experts, the TDA identifies the relative importance of the sources and causes of transboundary waters problems.

A TDA typically starts with a stock-taking exercise, analyzing the existing data and using it to identify initial priority issues having an impact of transboundary nature; after the environmental and socioeconomic impacts are analyzed a second prioritization process is undertaken to decide on the final issues that need to be addressed. A causal chain analysis enables the identification of the most significant immediate, sectoral and root causes of key water resource and environmental issues in the Basin. A governance analysis further informs the TDA process by analyzing the legal, institutional and policy frameworks at a national and regional level and their interaction with the water-body.

What are the issues covered by a TDA?

In a TDA, a given water-body is considered in a holistic manner: Physical, geographic and sectoral issues, socio-economic factors and situation, environmental factors, water uses and productive capacities of water bodies are covered in the TDA.

The TDA identifies information gaps and deficiencies in the national legislative and institutional frameworks of the riparian countries. Experts also examine the role of various economic sectors, and the existing level of public awareness and involvement in decision-making on environmental issues.

What principles does it abide by?

Transboundary diagnostic analyses are factual, scientific documents providing a snap-shot of the overall (environmental, socioeconomic, political, etc.) status and trends of a water-body. TDAs are undertaken in a participatory manner, they focus on issues with transboundary impacts and are non-negotiated documents.

What does it deliver?

The TDA process is a unique tool that enables policy- and decision-makers to understand and prioritize components within a complex transboundary situation. It also delivers on a political level as it serves as a confidence-building mechanism (akin to those developed for disarmament processes), bringing experts and stakeholders from riparian countries together to discuss concrete issues in a non-adversarial setting.

Elements of TDA analyses are often printed in the form of an Atlas, state of the environment, passport or other form which also serves for awareness raising, outreach and advocacy on the key issues of concern identified in the TDA.

While the step following a TDA is the Strategic Action Programme, TDAs often catalyze national investments and reforms as they provide concrete and rational information to decision-makers.

Who is involved?

Shared water bodies are typically affected and used by a range of sectoral players; this is why the process usually establishes national inter-ministerial committees and a regional steering committee.

Collection of (existing) data and analysis is usually undertaken by national experts (ecologists, hydrologists, lawyers…) coordinated and guided by a regional or international expert.

Communities and stakeholders using the water body are involved through the stakeholder analysis and stakeholder involvement plan subsequently incorporated into the SAP.

How long does it take?

The duration of a TDA usually depends on the number of participating countries, the extent to which a cooperation basis exists in the basin and the availability and reliability of information. Experience so far indicates that the average time for a TDA is of 1 to 2 years, including the final editing and publication of the document.

How much does it cost?

Similarly to the duration, the cost of a TDA depends on the size of the basin and existing information and expertise in the basin, as well as the complexity of issues to be tackled. The cost of a TDA can range from USD 500K to 1.5M, including the cost of training stakeholders.

What's a SAP?



Further resources and links

Additional information on the TDA/SAP process, including sample TDA reports and a training module can be found on [[IW-LEARN}'s platform (check out especially http://www.iwlearn.net/publications and http://www.iwlearn.net/publications/courses).

Further readings
  • Green Cross (2000), - National Sovereignty and International Watercourses (2000),


  • Nicol, A., van Steenbergen, F. et al., Transboundary Water Management as an International Public Good, Development Financing 2000 Study 2001:1 (Stockholm: for the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, 2001)
  • UNDP (2006) Beyond scarcity: Power, poverty and the global water crisis, Human Development Report, UNDP, New York.
  • Sadoff, Claudia W. and David Grey. (2002). “Beyond the river: the benefits of cooperation on international river” in Water Policy, 4, 5: 389-403.
  • The World Bank (2006): Iraq Country Water Resource Assistance Strategy

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