While the existence of freshwater offshore aquifers under continental shelves has been known for decades, none discovered thus far straddles international boundaries. In the event that an offshore aquifer shared by two or more nations is identified and targeted for development, selection of a governance regime for the aquifer will present a unique challenge, although several current legal systems could provide guidance. The un Convention on the Law of the Sea addresses maritime natural resources in formations such as the continental shelf. Well-established governance principles for development of offshore hydrocarbon reserves would also be relevant. While the law addressing transboundary land-based aquifers is still in a nascent stage, customary international water law has evolved over centuries and could provide guidance for offshore aquifers. This monograph explores principles, and proposes a governance regime for transboundary offshore aquifers.
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F.A. Kohout et al, ‘Fresh Ground Water Stored in Aquifers Under the Continental Shelf: Implications from a Deep Test, Nantucket Island, Massachusetts,’Water Resources BulletinVol. 13(2), pp. 373–386 (1977).
Ibid, p. 384; J. Groen et al, ‘Fresh and Moderately Brackish Groundwaters in Coastal Plains and Continental Shelves: Past and Ongoing Natural Processes,’ Proc. swim [Salt Water Intrusion Meeting] 16, Poland, pp. 1–7 (2000), p. 1.
Supra, Kohout et al, note 4, p. 384.
Ibid, p. 383.
Ibid, p. 378.
Ibid, pp. 381–382.
Ibid, p. 382.
Ibid, p. 16.
Supra, Groen et al, note 5, p. 5.
Ibid, p. 3,referencing Groen, J., ‘Hydrogeological Investigations in Suriname,’ The History of Earth Sciences in Suriname. (1998); J. Groen, J. Velstrab & A.G.C.A. Meesters, ‘Salinization Processes in Paleowaters in Coastal Sediments of Suriname: Evidence from ∂37Cl Analysis and Diffusion Modelling,’ Journal of Hydrology, Vol. 234, pp. 1–20 (2000), p. 18.
H. Kooi & J. Groen, ‘Offshore Continuation of Coastal Groundwater Systems; Predictions Using Sharp-interface Approximations and Variable-density Flow Modelling,’Journal of Hydrology, Vol. 246, pp. 19–35 (2001), p. 31.
Ibid, p. 2. However, drilling during the past 100 years has disturbed the natural balance of waters and initiated mixing of palaeowater and surface water that has been tainted with pollutants.
Ibid, p. 14; K. Hinsby et al, ‘The Ribe Formation in Western Denmark—Holocene and Pleistocene Groundwaters in a Coastal Miocene Sand Aquifers,’ in W. M. Edmunds & C. J. Milne, eds., Palaeowaters in Coastal Europe: Evolution of Groundwater since the Late Pleistocene, pp. 29–48 (The Geological Society of London 2001), pp. 42–43.
Mark Person et al, ‘Pleistocene Hydrology of North America: The Role of Ice Sheets in Reorganizing Groundwater Flow Systems,’Reviews of Geophysics, Vol. 45, Paper number 2006RG000206, pp. 1–28 (2007), p. 18.
Sunil Varma & Karsten Michael, ‘Impact of Multi-purpose Aquifer Utilisation on a Variable-density Groundwater Flow System in the Gippsland Basin, Australia,’Hydrogeology Journal, Vol. 20, pp. 119–134 (2011), p. 132; J. Bourdet, R. Kempton & K. Michael, ‘Palaeo-formation Water Evolution in the Latrobe Aquifer, Gippsland Basin, South-eastern Australia Continental Shelf,’ Geofluids, Vol. 14, pp. 1–24 (2014), p. 2.
Yukiko Kusano et al, ‘Occurrence of Old Groundwater in a Volcanic Island on a Continental Shelf; an Example from Nakano-shima Island, Oki-Dozen, Japan,’Journal of Hydrology, Vol. 511, pp. 295–309 (2014), p. 308.
Supra, Kooi & Groen, note 16, p. 32; E. Custodio, W.M. Edmunds & Y. Travi, ‘Management of Coastal Palaeowaters,’ in W. M. Edmunds & C. J. Milne, eds., Palaeowaters in Coastal Europe: Evolution of Groundwater since the Late Pleistocene, pp. 313–327 (The Geological Society of London 2001), p. 315.
Supra, Cohen et al, note 29, p. 143. The authors caution that conditions different from the assumptions used in modeling could affect the estimate by a factor of ±2. P. 154. To put the volumes in perspective, according to the u.s. Geological Survey, the water estimated by Cohen et al to lie under the Atlantic seaboard—104 km3—is equivalent to the water in all of the world’s rivers. In addition, the volume estimated to lie under the global continental shelves—3×105 km3—is equivalent to more than three times the volume of water in surface lakes and rivers, or all of the ground ice and permafrost on the planet. ‘How Much Water Is There On, In, and Above the Earth?,’ The usgs Water Science School, http://water.usgs.gov/edu/earthhowmuch.html (accessed on 5 March 2016).
Supra, Cohen et al, note 29, p. 155.
Vincent E.A. Post et al, ‘Offshore Fresh Groundwater Reserves as a Global Phenomenon,’Nature, Vol. 504, pp. 71–78 (2013).
Emily Thomas, ‘Massive Freshwater Supply Found Trapped Under the Ocean,’Huffpost Green, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/05/freshwater-found-under-ocean-_n_4392821.html (accessed 7 February 2016).
Philip Ross, ‘Freshwater Reserves Under Ocean Floors “100 Times Greater” than What We’ve Used Since 1900,’International Business Times, http://www.ibtimes.com/freshwater-reserves-under-ocean-floors-100-times-greater-what-weve-used-1900-1499766 (accessed 7 February 2016).
Presidential Proclamation2667, 28September 1945: ‘Natural Resources of the Subsoil and Sea Bed of the Continental Shelf,’ 10 Federal Register 12303 (1945), 59 Stat 884. Also available athttp://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=12332 (accessed 12 November 2015). Some scholars point to a 1942 treaty between Venezuela and the United Kingdom (acting for Trinidad) as the beginning of sovereign claims over the continental shelf. See A. L. Morgan, ‘The New Law of the Sea: Rethinking the Implications for Sovereign Jurisdiction and Freedom of Action,’ 27 Ocean Development & International Law, Vol. 27, pp. 5–29, 12–13 (1996).
Ibid, p. 2; supra, Morgan, note 75, p. 7.
Presidential Proclamation2668, 28September 1945: ‘Coastal Fisheries in Certain Areas of the High Seas,’ 10 Federal Register 12304 (1945), 59 Stat. 885.
F.V.W. Penick, ‘The Legal Character of the Right to Explore and Exploit the Natural Resources of the Continental Shelf,’San Diego Law Review, Vol. 22, pp. 765–778 (1985), p. 769.
Supra, Jessup Opinion, Note 112, p. 83. Jessup’s opinion incorrectly attributes Onorato’s 1968 article to 1958.
Supra, Onorato1968, note 167, pp. 93, 96. Water in confined, non-recharging aquifers has additional similarities to petroleum by being encased in closed geological formations that require effort and skill to access.
Supra, Jessup Opinion, note 112, p. 82.
Rainer Lagoni, ‘Oil and Gas Deposits Across National Frontiers,’American Journal of International Law, Vol. 73, pp. 215–243 (1979), pp. 239–240.
David M. Ong, ‘Joint Development of Common Offshore Oil and Gas Deposits: “Mere” State Practice or Customary International Law?,’The American Journal of International Law, Vol. 93(4), pp. 771–804 (1999), p. 780 (‘Ong 1999’).
Masahiro Miyoshi, ‘The Joint Development of Offshore Oil and Gas in Relation to Maritime Boundary Delimitation,’International Boundaries Research Unit Maritime Briefing, Vol. 2(5), pp. 1–51, 1 (1999) (‘Miyoshi 1999’).
Ibid, pp. 327–328. Onorato restated these principles in a later article. See William T. Onorato, ‘Joint Development of Seabed Hydrocarbon Resources: An Overview of Precedents in The North Sea,’ Energy, Vol. 6 (11), pp. 1311–1324, 1311–1312 (1981) (‘Onorato 1981’).
Supra, Lagoni, note 175, p. 229. As discussed earlier, water can only be viewed as a mineral when it is frozen into a solid form.
Ibid, p. 233.
Ibid, p. 235.
Ibid, pp. 222–223.
Ibid, p. 223.
Ibid, p. 224.
Ibid, pp. 226–228.
Ibid, p. 236. See also Masahiro Miyoshi, ‘Some Comments on Legal Aspects of Precedents for Joint Development,’ Energy, Vol. 6 (11), pp. 1359–1362, 1360 (1981) (‘Miyoshi 1981’).
William T. Onorato, ‘A Case Study in Joint Development: The Saudi Arabia-Kuwait Partitioned Neutral Zone,’Energy, Vol. 10 (3/4), pp. 539–544, 539–340 (1985).
Alberto Szekely, ‘The International Law of Submarine Transboundary Hydrocarbon Resources: Legal Limits to Behavior and Experiences for the Gulf of Mexico,’Natural Resources Journal, Vol. 26, pp. 733–768, 738, 743 (1986).
David M. Ong, ‘The New Timor Sea Arrangement 2001: Is Joint Development of Common Offshore Oil and Gas Deposits Mandated under International Law?,’International Journal of Marine & Coastal Law, Vol. 17, pp. 79–122, 95 (2002).
Owen McIntyre, ‘The Role of Customary Rules and Principles of International Environmental Law in the Protection of Shared International Freshwater Resources,’Natural Resources Journal, Vol. 46, pp. 157–210 (2006), p. 159.
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