Document Type

Honors Thesis

Publication Date

Spring 2019


Natural-resource security is an increasingly important area of international affairs. While there is a great deal of cooperation at the international level between actors with a stake in shared natural resources, there is also contention. Military and security issues can arise out of the coming together of nations over natural resources. A waterway or reservoir that is abutted by one or more nations can be problematic. This study seeks to clarify processes surrounding two specific examples of water-resource decision making involving state and non-state actors. The following questions guide my research: 1) How do international cooperations focused on water security work? 2) What, in the context of international cooperations focused on water security, does peace mean? 3) How and to what extent do these cooperations advance peaceful outcomes for water security? This thesis intends to develop a greater understanding of cooperation and conflict around natural resources and also contribute to knowledge about peace processes in this important area of international affairs.

My methods are based on and build from my social science research experience with the Future of Dams project which is a National Science Foundation project to understand and support linking knowledge with decision making about dams. In this research, I look at media articles to analyze discourse around negotiations and interactions around shared waters. My case study and cross-case comparison focuses on two specific cases. The first draws from interactions in the Aral Sea basin where states are cooperating to deal with the fallout of historically intensive irrigation practices that decimated the sea. The second focuses on the Penobscot River where a recently completed dam-removal project is being heralded as a new standard in collaborative decision making around natural resources. Through my analysis, I discover some general trends in decision making on shared water resources and how actors can achieve successful outcomes. These insights arise from considering the similarities and differences between these two cases.