Transboundary rivers have important geopolitical and geo-economic connotations, but riparian states of transboundary rivers are often driven by their own rapid population growth and economic development to become involved in regional conflicts about the development and use of water resources. Therefore, finding a balance between the need for fair and reasonable development of water resources and the effective protection of environment from an ecological perspective has become a major problem faced by the international community. This paper begins with consideration of international water laws related to transboundary rivers and then reviews advances in the research on benefit-sharing, ecological compensation mechanisms, and adaptive management systems. We believe that existing international water laws form a complete legal system and that more attention needs to be paid to transboundary cooperation and sustainable water resource use. With respect to how transboundary water conflicts are resolved, there is a trend to move away from single water resource allocation (a zero-sum game) to benefit-sharing in order to achieve a win-win situation for riparian states, but there are still some difficulties in transboundary ecological compensation. In China, the central government has paid attention to horizontal ecological compensation between upstream and downstream, offering guidance to promote establishment of inter-province ecological compensation. Based on existing practice, horizontal ecological compensations are still in their infancy, small in scale, supported by a weak legal system, lacking market mechanisms to encourage their use and relying on fiscal transfers as the method of payment. In the future, China will need to intensify its research on legal system development, international cooperation, and benefit-sharing as these impact transboundary water resources. Because government can be seen as a management department with multiple identities (enabler, regulator and buyer), to improve adaptive transboundary ecological compensation mechanisms, government must develop as soon as possible data sharing platforms, standards of water consumption behaviors and intergovernmental policies (or ordinances).
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Vol. 8 • No. 2