This article examines how discourses of water nationalism are used to justify and legitimise a state’s water policy both domestically and internationally and how that discourse constitutes a battleground of ideas and power in transboundary water interactions.
Most literature on hydropolitics takes the social construct of the nation state as a given but the construct reveals a certain degree of fragility. For this reason, legitimacy, both domestic and global, is a crucial factor in understanding these transboundary water disputes. Water related slogans and landscape symbols can be used to reinforce the legitimising effects of these discourses and are employed as an ideology for consolidating hegemony at the transboundary level. These discourses, however, are also contested both domestically and globally. This paper uses three specific case studies around dam building projects – the Merowe Dam in Sudan, the Rogun Dam in Tajikistan and the Southeastern Anatolia Project in Turkey – to identify how these discourses create different types of transboundary water interactions.