International Water Cooperation and Conflict: A New Event Dataset

75 Pages Posted: 17 Nov 2012 Last revised: 19 Nov 2012

Date Written: 2012


Many qualitative case studies provide valuable insights into the determinants of international water cooperation and conflict. In recent years, several researchers have moved on to large-N research in order to find out to what extent some of the case-specific results are empirically relevant across larger sets of international river basins. One major challenge in this large-N work concerns data. This paper describes a new event dataset on international river basin cooperation and conflict worldwide for the time-period 1997-2007. Water related events between riparian countries are characterized on a scale ranging from -6 (most conflictive) to 6 (most cooperative). We provide descriptive statistics for the new data and compare them to the only other publicly available dataset on international river basin events, the Transboundary Freshwater Disputes Dataset (TFDD). Our data confirm that cooperation outweighs conflict; there are no reported offical interactions in many of the world’s river basins; most documented interactions concern issues of water quantity and infrastructure; and cooperation and conflict are not mutually exclusive, but often occur in conjunction. However, the comparison also indicates substantial differences that stem from different sources for newsmedia information, different search strings for selecting newsmedia items, differences in substantive definitions, and differences in coding rules and procedures. Future research on the causes of international water cooperation and conflict is likely to produce more robust results now being equipped with two independently generated complementary datasets.

Suggested Citation

Kalbhenn, Anna and Bernauer, Thomas, International Water Cooperation and Conflict: A New Event Dataset (2012). Available at SSRN: or

Anna Kalbhenn

ETH Zürich ( email )

CER-ETH Center of Economic Research at ETH Zurich
Zurich, 8092

Thomas Bernauer (Contact Author)

ETH Zurich ( email )

Center for Comparative and International Studies
Building IFW, office 45.1, Haldeneggsteig 4
Zurich 8092, 8092
+41 44 632 6466 (Phone)
+41 44 632 1289 (Fax)


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