by Luciana Sarmento*

Reviewed by Matheus Lucas Hebling


The status of the world’s largest transboundary basin in the achievement of the global goals for the implementation of integrated water resources management

The Sustainable Development Goals – SDG – were adopted by the Member-States of the United Nations in 2015 as a world agenda of actions to be achieved until 2030, aiming to eradicate poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. The SDGs are based on the premise that development requires a balance between social, economic, and environmental sustainability and, to achieve that, 17 integrated goals were outlined and, therefore, their results are at a large extent interdependent.

SDG 6 is a goal related to water that aims to ensure availability and sustainable management of water resources and sanitation to all through 8 targets, and its achievement will be evaluated through 11 indicators. Target 6.5, which aims to broaden worldwide Water Resources Integrated Management – IWRM – is of particular interest for hydro diplomacy since it is fundamental to the management of transboundary waters.

Each one of the 17 SDG depends, to a large or smaller extent, on the availability of water resources in quality and quantity, more specifically, water transboundary cooperation may have a positive effect in almost all of 17 SDGs (Figure 1) which means there is a clear relation between SDG 6.5 target and the increasing of Human Development Index as a whole. Regarding transboundary water resources, the countries will not be able to achieve their Sustainable Development Goals separately, therefore they must agree to formal agreements that will allow them to do so. The countries may choose the benefits of transboundary water cooperation in favor of their extended efforts of sustainable development. This may economically benefit a series of SDGs more than any country could achieve unilaterally.

Figure 1: Integration of Goal 6.5 with other SDGs

The measurement of SDG 6.5 is a result of indicator SDG 6.5.1, which measures the level of implementation of the IWRM and indicator SDG 6.5.2 that measures the area of transboundary basin territory, including rivers, lakes, and aquifers in the country with an operational arrangement in force vigor for water cooperation. Both indicators have values on a scale between 0 and 100.

Indicator 6.5.1 is a qualitative self-evaluation of the status of implementation of the IWRM in countries that share water resources. Specifically, regarding the measurement of the progress of transboundary waters integrated management, the referred indicator takes into account the existence of arrangements and organizational structure, the level of data and information sharing, and financing for cooperation in the basin.

According to the last update, the degree of implementation of integrated water resources management worldwide is 54% which constitutes a medium-high level of IWRM implementation while, regionally, in Latin America and The Caribbean (LAC), the 6.5.1 SDG level of implementation is the lowest in the world with 37%, considered limited (medium-low) with elements of IWRM generally institutionalized and implementation is underway (UNEP, 2021).

Indicator 6.5.2, which measures the existence of operational agreements in force for hydric cooperation, verifies the compliance to four criteria: the existence of a bilateral department, a bilateral mechanism, or a commission for transboundary cooperation; that the riparians countries maintain regular formal communication (at least once a year) in the form of meetings (political or technical); the existence of bilateral or coordinated management plans for water resources or established bilateral objectives and periodical data and information exchange between countries (at least once a year).

The global result of the SDG report for indicator 6.5.2 shows that the national average percentage of transboundary basins covered by operational agreements considering de component transboundary river and lake basins is 64% to a group of 101 countries among 153 countries that share transboundary waters. A regional index for LAC wasn´t presented, but only four out of 22 countries reported the existence of operational arrangements for transboundary river and lake basins (UNECE and UNESCO, 2021).

It is crucial to observe the evolution of these indices to the largest Hydrographic Basin of the planet: the Amazon basin, which involves eight National States, placing this transboundary basin in third place about the number of countries that share it, only behind the Nile River, which includes 10 countries, and the Danube River, which brings together 19 countries (GWP, 2014). In addition to the political and administrative characteristics, the Amazon Basin is the largest freshwater river system on the planet whose drainage corresponds to 20% of the world’s discharge (Marengo, 2006; Mostafavi et al, 2018).

The Amazon countries, namely Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Surinam, and Venezuela, except for the last one that did not give any information, stated they have, to some extent, agreements and organizational structures in force for the implementation of the IWRM. In the final assessment of the level of implementation of the IWRM in transboundary basins in the Amazon countries, only Bolivia, Brazil and Colombia have reached a medium-high level (51-70 points), while the other is on a scale lower than 50 points (Table 2).

Between the countries of the Amazon Basin, the measurement of the SDG indicator 6.5.2 has been impacted by two of the eight countries (Bolivia and Surinam) that did not provide information. On the other hand, it is possible to verify a large discrepancy in the basin having Brazil and Ecuador reaching fairly high levels, 99.76%, and 100% respectively, while Peru is at a low level (less than 30%) and Colombia, Guiana, and Venezuela are at the very low end of the scale for the fulfillment of the objective with values inferior to 10% (Table 2).

Table 2: Situation of indicator SDG 6.5.1 in the Amazon countries

Amazon Country

IWRM  in  the Amazon basin countries (metric 0-100)

Water Cooperation in the Amazon basin countries (metric 0-100)




































No data

No data



  Source: UNEP (2021) and (UNECE and UNESCO, 2021)


Most of the Amazon Countries are not tracking to meet the SDG 6.5 target by 2030, since they made limited progress between 2017 and 2020.  Considerable acceleration of IWRM implementation is needed, especially in Ecuador, Guyana, and Surinam. For water cooperation, the challenges are even more intense because of the lack of information and the huge disparities observed.

Nevertheless, regarding agreements, organizational structure, and the existence of a multiparty collaboration referred to in the indicators to achieve SDG 6.5, the transboundary Amazon basin has favorable conditions to accomplish better results because of the increasing implementation actions in the Amazon Cooperation Treaty led by the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization – ACTO – that are systematically defining and enabling elements for the achievement of this indicator (OTCA, 2010; OTCA, 2018)

The greatest challenge is in the range of data and information exchange mechanisms and in increasing financing sources, items also quantified for the assessment of the level of implementation of the IWRM in transboundary basins. Both indicators SDG 6.5.1 and indicator SDG 6.5.2, include knowing if the countries of the basin exchanges data and information at least once a year.

Among the benefits of data and information exchange for the management of transboundary basins is the comprehension of the main pressures relative to a determined transboundary water system; better assessment of issues and problems faced by other countries in the basin; improvement of alert and early alarm systems; better comprehension of data gaps; coordination of methodologies and standards for data collection; and, most of all, more efficient planning for the management of transboundary hydrographical basins.

Despite the existence of favorable institutional conditions in the Amazon Basin, there is still the discrepancy between countries involved that affects a satisfactory range of the IWRM in transboundary waters in countries involved. Overcoming these limitations, especially regarding the production and exchange of reliable data to subsidize several planning activities, is one of the big challenges that are ahead to progress in the implementation of the IWRM in the Amazon Basin.

 Luciana Sarmento holds a BSc in Civil Engineering, a specialization International Relations, Masters in Development and Environment and a PhD in Environmental Technology and Water Resources. Since 2006, she has been working in the water resources area with solid technical training provided by leading institutions, such as IHE-Delt (Netherlands), AECID (Spain), USGS and USACE (USA). She is currently a servant at the Brasilian National Water Agency (ANA-Brazil), as a Water Resources and Sanitation Specialist, in the management and planning of hydrometeorological monitoring networks and in International Cooperation for the Integrated Management of Water Resources in the Amazo. E-mail


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Luciana Sarmento (2022) "Water Resources Integrated Management in the Amazon Basin and the Global Agenda". Brazilian Research and Studies Blog. ISSN 2701-4924. Vol. 3 Num. 1. available at:, accessed on: December 2, 2022.