Transboundary Waters: The Río Silala & the International Court of Justice

Editor's Note

The Río Silala is the world in miniature.

On December 1, 2022, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), issued its Judgment concerning the Río Silala. Watched on the world stage, the case, and its outcome, sent ripples through the international community. The Dispute Over the Status and Use of the Waters of the Silala River, also referred to as Chile v. Bolivia, involved a disagreement between the Republic of Chile and the Plurinational State of Bolivia over the river’s status and the countries’ respective rights and obligations pertaining to its flows, demonstrating the complex relationships between natural resources and human institutions developed to manage them. Chile v. Bolivia illustrates how political, socio-economic, and environmental forces fuel resource competition—the river’s basin aptly deemed the most “hydro-politically vulnerable basin” in the world—raising important questions for international law and its capacity to remedy transboundary water disputes. These questions are not novel in the Anthropocene era. Yet as nation-states grapple with them amidst anthropogenic climate change, the dialogue is more critical than ever.

This special issue of Wyoming Law Review is inspired by the Silala—its landscape, waterscape, and connected human communities; the legal controversy; and the many reflections to be gleaned in the small river’s flows. We begin the special issue with Chile v. Bolivia’s backstory, followed by an overview of the six year ICJ proceeding, and ultimately a preview of the scholarship contributed by esteemed authors from around the globe.


  1. Introduction

    Chile's Decision to Bring the Silala Case Before the International Court of Justice

    The Silala Judgement and the Duty to Cooperate in Customary International Water Law

    The Dispute over the Status and Use of the Silala River (Chile v. Bolivia): The International Court of Justice Again Declines to Apply International Water Law

    The Lithium Industry and its Human rights Impacts: The Case of the Lickanantay People in Chile

    Implications of Chile v. Bolivia for Transboundary Wetlands

    Silala River Case: The Equitable Utilization Right and the Issues of Water Commodification and Artificial Flows

    Shadings of Nuance: Contextualizing a "Convergence of Opinion" Regarding a River Located in the Imaginarium of the Western Mind

    Epilogue:What is the Rio Silala?

      General Law Division

      False or Misleading? Preemption, FIFRA, and California's Common Law "Duty to Warn" in Hardeman v. Monsanto Co.

      Wyoming Law Division

      Surrogacy in the Equality State: Lessons from the Code of the West





Implications of Chile v. Bolivia for Transboundary Wetlands
Zoe H. Rosenblum and Aaron T. Wolf Oregon State University

Special Section


Introduction to Transboundary Waters Special Issue
Special Section
Hannah Mink and Jenna VonHofe


Epilogue: What is the Río Silala?
Special Section
Jason Anthony Robison