Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session



Course Description

The demand for water continues to rise all over the world while supply remains relatively limited and increasingly uncertain due to climate change. If these trends continue, they could lead to greater conflict over water use. This course examines ways of resolving conflicts over the allocation of water resources, particularly transboundary waters. Graduate students and advanced undergraduates are welcome. The class is taught comparatively, that is, with constant reference to cases from around the world.

This course is designed to raise student awareness of the state of freshwater resources globally and the need for more effective water governance. It builds on several case studies of transboundary water conflicts in different parts of the world while also helping students develop the negotiation and mediation skills they will need to resolve water disputes. During the course, students will participate in a role-play simulation (“Indopotamia”) as a way of applying what they have learned about water governance and multiparty negotiation.

The course includes guest lectures by Dr. Bruno Verdini Trejo (MIT), Dr. Yasmin Zaerpoor (Boston College), and Prof. Shafiqul Islam (Tufts), presenting multiple cases of transboundary water conflicts (e.g., Nile, Indus, Jordan, US-Mexico).

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to

  • describe complexities related to transboundary water management;
  • critically evaluate the paradigm shift of water resources management in academic literature;
  • describe the resolution of a water conflict (or design an approach to an existing conflict) by referencing specific tools, approaches, and principles from negotiations;
  • apply basic negotiation skills to transboundary water governance;
  • hypothesize ways of creating value in a given transboundary water conflict.

How the Course Is Organized

I. Introduction and the Water Diplomacy Framework (WDF)

  • Water Diplomacy
  • Complexities of Water Resource Allocation
  • Introduction to the Framework
  • Stakeholder Engagement
  • Benefit-Sharing and Mutual Gains

II. Key Considerations

  • Transboundary Water Conflicts and Cooperation
  • Water Security
  • The Evolution of Water Management
  • Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM)
  • The Water-Energy Food (WEF) Nexus
  • Sustainable Development Goals and IWRM

III. Role-Play Simulation

  • Part 1: Introduction & Joint Fact-Finding
  • Part 2: Mutual Gain Negotiation

IV. Regional Case Studies

  • The US-Mexico Water Case (Dr. Bruno Verdini Trejo, MIT)
  • The Nile River Case (Dr. Yasmin Zaerpoor, Boston College)
  • The Indus/Jordan River Case (Prof. Shafiqul Islam, Tufts University)

V. Student Presentations

Required Text

Shafiqul Islam and Lawrence Susskind, Water Diplomacy: A Negotiated Approach to Managing Complex Water Networks, Resources for the Future (Routledge), 2012. ISBN: 9781617261039.

Other assigned readings are listed on the Readings page.

Assignments and Grading

  1. Five short memos (15% of the grade).
  2. Participation in the Indopotamia Game (10%).
  3. A case study of a water conflict (35%).
  4. Oral presentation of the case study (25%).
  5. Two written commentaries on cases prepared by other students in the class (5%).
  6. Class participation in all classes (10%).

The assignments listed above are described in more detail on the Assignments page.

You are required to attend all scheduled class meetings unless you have requested an exception (one per semester) or have a medical emergency.

Final grades are based on a weighted average for the term. Grade cutoff points are as follows:

  • A+ = 97–100%
  • A = 94–96%
  • A- = 90–93%
  • B+ = 87–89%
  • B = 83–86%
  • B- = 80–82%
  • C+ = 77–79%
  • C = 73–76%
  • C- = 70–72%
  • D = 60–69%
  • F = < 60%

Academic Honesty

Plagiarism and cheating are both academic crimes. Never (1) turn in an assignment that you did not write yourself, (2) turn in an assignment for this class that you previously turned in for another class, or (3) cheat on an exam. If you do, it may result in a failing grade for the class and possibly even suspension from MIT. Please see Dr. Gain if you have any questions about what constitutes plagiarism.

Adherence to MIT’s Emergency Academic Regulations and Recommendations for Spring 2021

Entering into our third semester impacted by the ongoing pandemic, MIT recognizes the difficult and unusual circumstances continuing to impact everyone in our community. To ensure the highest quality educational experience during these times, MIT’s Academic Policy and Regulations Team (APART) has developed recommendations and regulations for the Spring 2021 term. This syllabus has been developed, and this class will be conducted, in full adherence to the APART policies and the grading policy for Spring 2021. Other term regulations and examination policies remain in effect.

Land Acknowledgement Statement

MIT acknowledges Indigenous Peoples as the traditional stewards of the land, and the enduring relationship that exists between them and their traditional territories. The land on which we sit is the traditional unceded territory of the Wampanoag Nation. We acknowledge the painful history of genocide and forced occupation of their territory, and we honor and respect the many diverse indigenous people connected to this land on which we gather from time immemorial.

Inclusive Classroom

MIT values an inclusive environment. We hope to foster a sense of community in this classroom and consider this classroom to be a place where you will be treated with respect. We welcome individuals of all backgrounds, beliefs, ethnicities, national origins, gender identities, sexual orientations, religious and political affiliations, and other visible and nonvisible differences. We hope to teach you in a way that you will be able to transfer what you learn in one context to other aspects of your education, as well as your other social, racial, ethnic, political, or spiritual identities. The activities (practice, constant reflection, and assessment) used in this course are designed to help you examine yourself in an effort to improve your communication and problem solving skills to be an engaged learner. We believe that the variety of voices and perspectives will add richness and depth to the conversations we will have in class and is instrumental when approaching and designing solutions to problems. We have made an effort to include in the readings and assignments components of such a variety, but we do recognize that there is room for our own improvement. We welcome your feedback and we look forward to learning with you!

All members of this class are expected to contribute to a respectful, welcoming, and inclusive environment for every other member of the class. If this standard is not being upheld, please feel free to speak with us.

Academic Integrity

In this course, we will hold you to the high standard of academic integrity expected of all students at the Institute. We do this for two reasons. First, it is essential to the learning process that you are the one doing the work. We have structured the assignments in this course to enable you to gain a mastery of the course material. Failing to do the work yourself will result in a lesser understanding of the content, and therefore a less meaningful education for you. Second, it is important that there be a level playing field for all students in this course and at the Institute so that the rigor and integrity of the Institute’s educational program are maintained. Violating the Academic Integrity policy in any way (e.g., plagiarism, unauthorized collaboration, cheating, etc.) will result in official Institute sanction. Possible sanctions include receiving a failing grade on the assignment or exam, being assigned a failing grade in the course, having a formal notation of disciplinary action placed on your MIT record, suspension from the Institute, and expulsion from the Institute for very serious cases. Please review MIT’s Academic Integrity policy and related resources (e.g., working under pressure; how to paraphrase, summarize, and quote; etc.) and contact me if you have any questions about appropriate citation methods, the degree of collaboration that is permitted, or anything else related to the academic integrity of this course.

Course Info

Learning Resource Types

assignment_turned_in Written Assignments with Examples
theaters Lecture Videos
assignment_turned_in Presentation Assignments with Examples