Rivers have been a popular choice for international boundary-makers throughout history for a variety of reasons. However, defining a jurisdictional limit in a dynamic natural feature continues to pose challenges for neighbouring states. At the same time, rivers which form international boundaries are natural resources which are simultaneously shared and divided, requiring bilateral (and sometimes multilateral) cooperation on border management. With all their complexities, how well do we understand the scope of river boundaries around the world? Challenging previous studies whose perspective has tended to generalise the extent of river boundaries, this article examines the development of the International River Boundaries Database (IRBD) which represents the most comprehensive collection of information concerning the lengths and definitions of river boundaries worldwide. Emphasising an accurate image of river boundaries on the ground, the IRBD reveals that the true magnitude of river boundaries worldwide has been underestimated, and likewise the true magnitude of management challenges inherent to river boundaries has been underestimated. In doing so, the IRBD helps to engage inter-disciplinary and bilateral dialogue on the under-researched link between boundary definition and transboundary water management.

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