The short-term and long-term ramifications of linkages involving natural resources: The US - Mexico transboundary water case

Itay Fischhendler*, Eran Feitelson, David Eaton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Issue linkage is often recommended as a strategy for enhancing cooperation. Lately it has been suggested that this strategy could also be applied to the management of transboundary natural resources. The authors examine the viability of this suggestion. They argue that in the case of natural resources such a linkage may have both short-term and long-term implications. Essentially, by constraining the options available to the various parties, such linkages limit ability to adapt management regimes to changes in the environment; thereby, they limit the ability to address environmental stresses and crises. These negative implications may be redressed by mechanisms that will allow the parties to adapt the linkage to new conditions and by tactics that reduce the political cost of a linkage strategy. The authors focus on the negotiation process concerning US-Mexico transboundary water, which was based on a long-term spatial linkage combining the waters of the Colorado River and those of the Rio Grande. This spatial linkage was advanced by a short-term issue linkage, in which the Mexican government supported the establishment of the United Nations in return for the US federal government's willingness to accept the spatial linkage. These linkages were found to have both short-term and long-term adverse implications. The short-term implications were delays in negotiations, inconsistency in the legal doctrines held by the different parties during the negotiation, and a threat to sovereignty. The main long-term implication identified is the current inability of Mexico to adapt the linkage in response to the ten-year drought along the Rio Grande, as manifest in the inability of Mexico to meet its water obligations to the USA along the Rio Grande. This has resulted in a controversy between Mexico and the USA, and between the Mexican federal government and the Mexican border states. It is suggested that flexibility provisions be included when linkages involving natural resources are advanced, so that the necessary adaptations in regimes management will be allowed for without necessitating a renegotiation of the treaty.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)633-650
Number of pages18
JournalEnvironment and Planning C: Government and Policy
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2004


Dive into the research topics of 'The short-term and long-term ramifications of linkages involving natural resources: The US - Mexico transboundary water case'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this