International River Basin Organization Database

A screenshot from the RBO database

The International River Basin Organization (RBO) Database is a searchable database that provides detailed institutional design data for more than 120 RBOs in more than 110 internationally shared watercourses.  It was created by Dr. Susanne Schmeier as a part of her PhD research. The database highlights the commonalities and differences across RBOs in the way they are set up and in the functions they fulfill in governing international watercourses.  The searchable database allows the user to search for a specific RBO (by RBO name, year of establishment, continent or member countries) and retrieve information on the institutional design characteristics of the respective RBO. The data can be accessed through the following formats:

 Data on the institutional design of these RBOs includes:

  • The membership structure (laterality and inclusiveness of RBOs)
  • The functional scope
  • The legal foundations and reference to international water law principles
  • The level of institutionalization and legalization
  • The organizational bodies of the RBO (including their role of their Secretariats)
  • Financing and cost-sharing mechanisms
  • Decision-making mechanisms
  • Data and information sharing mechanisms
  • Environmental and compliance monitoring mechanisms
  • Dispute-resolution mechanisms
  • Means for including external actors such as civil society groups, NGOs, epistemic communities or other regional institutions

Data on the different RBOs has been gathered from a number of different resources – including the underlying agreements and treaties, official documents of RBOs such as Rules of Procedures, Annual Work Plans, Strategic Plans or websites, official documents provided by bilateral and multilateral donors supporting the respective RBOs, program and project descriptions related to the RBOs as well as secondary analyses of different RBOs as far as available. Key sources used in this research are available at this link - List of References and Sources

For additional information about River Basin Organizations on transboundary waters, please see the following references:


Blumstein, Sabine, and Susanne Schmeier. “Disputes over International Watercourses: Can River Basin Organizations Make a Difference?” In Management of Transboundary Water Resources under Scarcity, edited by Ariel Dinar and Yacov Tsur, 191–236. New Jersey: World Scientific Publishing Company, 2017.

Delli Priscoli, Jerome. no date. "River Basin Organizations." Transboundary Freshwater Dispute Database. 

Schmeier, Susanne. “The Institutional Design of River Basin Organisations: Empirical Findings from around the World.” International Journal of River Basin Management 13, no. 1 (2015): 51–72.

Schmeier, Susanne. Governing International Watercourses: River Basin Organizations and the  Sustainable Governance of Internationally Shared Rivers and Lakes. New York: Routledge, 2013. 

Schmeier, Susanne, Andrea K. Gerlak, and Sabine Blumstein. “Clearing the Muddy Waters of Shared Watercourses Governance: Conceptualizing International River Basin Organizations.” International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics 16, no. 4 (2016): 597–619.

This database is a work in progress, and we invite observations and additional entries. Please contact us with comments or new/missing organizations or institutional design features of RBOs.