The Framework of Hydro-Hegemony (described by Zeitoun & Warner, in Water Policy8, pp 435–460, 2006) challenges mainstream analyses of hydro-political relations in transboundary river basins and highlights the role of power. The approach asserts that asymmetric power relations represent the cornerstone of the analysis of hydro-political relations. Varying hegemonic configurations and the unequal control of water resources among riparian states are characteristic of these relations. The hegemonic riparian in a given international transboundary water setting deploys several strategies to attain and maintain control, sometimes unilaterally, over the shared water resources. But is the control always as deep and entrenched as it sometimes seems to be?
The starting point of this paper is that hydro-hegemony is not incontestable. An established hegemonic order may often be challenged and resisted through a variety of counter-hegemonic strategies. Through examination of Ethiopian contest and consent of Egyptian hydro-hegemony, this study attempts to provide insights into the condition of counter hydro-hegemony and to provide a framework for further analysis in the field of transboundary water relations. The approach explores the options available for non-hegemonic riparians to challenge a particular hydro-hegemony and finds that these come from unexpected or unacknowledged sources. An assessment of these strategies shows how non-hegemonic riparians might challenge unequal hydro-political configurations and eventually contribute towards a more sustainable and equitable water and benefit-sharing regime.