Governing the Nile Under Climatic Uncertainty: The Need for a Climate-Proof Basin- Wide Treaty

27 Pages Posted: 3 Nov 2020

See all articles by Mahemud Tekuya

Mahemud Tekuya

University of the Pacific (UOP), McGeorge School of Law

Date Written: August 25, 2019


Climate change is projected to have catastrophic impacts on the hydrological cycle. Water availability, quantity, and demand will be affected. Existing studies and climate change models are commonly predicting increases in average annual temperature in the Nile Basin, leading to greater water loss due to evaporation. There is much less certainty in projections concerning future rainfall, river flows, and water availability in the Nile Basin. Studies concerning the later find contradictory results; one predicts floods and increased runoff, and the other predicts water scarcity and possible droughts. Proper governance of the Nile in the face of these uncertainties demands a response to two contradictory scenarios: either an increase in water availability and flooding or water scarcity and drought; each of which requires opposite adaptation strategies. Building flexible and resilient legal and institutional arrangements will no doubt be at the heart of such adaptation strategies. If climate change reduces the available water in the Nile Basin, competition for water between the Nile Basin States will intensify, possibly leading to conflict. If the available water resources increase due to climate change, this will create a need for a new legal response to flooding. In either case, flexibility is crucial in adapting to climate change. Drawing upon key findings from recent climate change modeling studies, this article analyses the intrinsic capacity of the fragmented legal regime governing the Nile watercourse to adapt to climate change. The article submits that the legal instruments governing the Nile watercourse do not possess the flexibility required for addressing the possible consequences of climate change. Indicating how flexibility can be built in the Nile watercourse treaties, the article proposes a climate-proofed basin-wide treaty.

Keywords: Nile Basin; Climate Change Impacts; Adaptation; Flexibility; CFA; Declaration of Principles; GERD

Suggested Citation

Tekuya, Mahemud, Governing the Nile Under Climatic Uncertainty: The Need for a Climate-Proof Basin- Wide Treaty (August 25, 2019). Natural Resources Journal, Vol. 59, No. 2, 2019, Available at SSRN: or

Mahemud Tekuya (Contact Author)

University of the Pacific (UOP), McGeorge School of Law ( email )

3200 Fifth Avenue
Sacremento, CA 95817
United States

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