Hard, Soft & Uncertain: The Guarani Aquifer and the Challenges of International Groundwater
41 Pages Posted: 5 Feb 2013
Date Written: 2013
This Article begins with an overview of the ecology of the Guarani Aquifer region before turning to the legal and ecological problems it faces. Because the majority of the Guarani Aquifer underlies Brazil (with the rest residing below Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay), the laws and policies of Brazil have a significant managerial impact. Consequently, the Brazilian legal regime forms the focus of the first Part of the Article. The Article then analyzes the international transboundary framework before turning to the recently enacted Agreement on the Guarani Aquifer. This Agreement, signed but not yet ratified by four countries, represents a major step forward in transnational cooperation. However, its language is so broad that it elides some of the principal management challenges facing this and all transboundary aquifers.
This Article reviews the endogenous and exogenous challenges facing the Guarani Aquifer System, looking particularly at those within and arising from Brazil. It then offers an international dispute resolution framework, drawn from the United States’ doctrine of equitable apportionment, and offers some proposed amendments to the multilateral agreement for managing the Guarani.
The complexity and environmental importance of the region, as well as the looming threats presented by climate change, make the need for accurate and detailed scientific and technical information urgent and crucial. Yet, relying on such information to manage a complex natural resource also presents risks. Too often, the role of uncertainty in risk assessment and in legal and managerial decisions gets reduced or ignored. Lessening uncertainty requires reducing asymmetric information. The Agreement represents a significant (albeit preliminary) step forward. This Article argues that increasing knowledge over the regulated resource demands categorizing “hard” and “soft” uncertainties. In addition, the regulatory framework must acknowledge the unitary nature of the aquifer while remaining sensitive to differing national and local priorities.
Keywords: Brazil, Guarani Aquifer, environmental law, international environmental law, transboundary, transboundary groundwater, groundwater, hard uncertainty, soft uncertain
JEL Classification: D80, D81,D82, D83, D84, H54, H70, H77, H79, H89, K32, K33, K39, N40, N46, N56, Q25, Q28, Q29
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation