As a legal principle, reciprocity influences the distribution of rights and duties providing a sense of fairness. This article explores the role that reciprocity plays in the law governing the use of transboundary waters shared by nation states (international water law). Three areas of the international law in this field – the duty to cooperate, the rules of procedure, and dispute settlement – are analysed through the lens of reciprocity. Although prevalent in general international law, the application of self-help measures finds scant consideration and practice in the field of international water law. Although such measures may be appropriate in this area, their application and scope may be limited. In terms of the reciprocal structure of international law, the emergence of the duty to cooperate as a possible obligation erga omnes, coupled with the now well-embedded rules of law in this field may help to explain why.

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