Mackenzie River Basin Bilateral Water Management Agreements
Water moves freely across provincial and international borders. As a result, activities in one area of a watershed affect the people and the environment downstream. Transboundary agreements commit two or more jurisdictions to cooperation in the management of a shared resource, such as water.
Transboundary water agreements define objectives for water quality and quantity to be met at the border. They also outline protocols for information exchange and dispute resolution between jurisdictions to support cooperation.
Current Transboundary Water Management Agreements
Alberta currently has three transboundary water management agreements in place: the Master Agreement on Apportionment (1969) with Saskatchewan, on eastern flowing rivers; the Boundary Waters Treaty (1909) (Section VI – St. Mary and Milk Rivers, Alberta - Montana); and, the Mackenzie River Basin Transboundary Waters Master Agreement.
The Mackenzie River Basin Transboundary Waters Master Agreement was signed in 1997. This agreement contains high level principles for the cooperative management of the aquatic ecosystem of the Mackenzie River Basin. It also commits Alberta to developing individual bilateral water management agreements with each neighbouring jurisdiction in the Mackenzie River Basin.
Alberta is currently developing a bilateral agreement with each of Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and the Northwest Territories. The provinces and territories are responsible for the development of the water management agreements. Additional support is being provided by the federal government, who represents the Northwest Territories through Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.
A Métis Elders Knowledge Gathering Workshop was held in Paddle Prairie, Alberta on Feb. 2, 2012. The purpose of this workshop was to understand Métis uses, interests and values associated with the water and aquatic ecosystems of the Peace River watershed and Peace-Athabasca Delta.
The Transboundary Secretariat & SREM Aboriginal Affairs Branch (SAAB) also held information sessions for First Nations on the bilateral agreements. Meetings were held in Peace River and High Level on June 5-6, 2012, with First Nations representatives. The sessions provided information on the bilateral agreements, an update on the overall agreement development processes to date, and provided an opportunity for First Nations to identify their concerns and interests related to the bilaterals.
The Transboundary Secretariat also met with the Mighty Peace WPAC in March to provide an overview of the bilaterals and Site C processes.
Status of Development Process
The three bilateral agreements are expected to be complete in 2013. A work plan, approved by all jurisdictions, outlines six phases of development for the agreements: planning, learning, interests, options, negotiation and assembly. Alberta has completed the information sharing and interests stage with all three jurisdictions, and is sharing options with the Northwest Territories. Alberta is developing and refining options with both Saskatchewan and British Columbia.
Mackenzie River Basin Bilateral Agreements Q&A
About the Agreements
What is the purpose of and what will the bilateral agreements contain?
The development of these agreements will be guided by the Mackenzie River Basin Board Bilateral Water Management Agreements Guidance Document. The bilateral agreements will define transboundary objectives for water quality, water quantity, and groundwater to maintain the integrity of the aquatic ecosystem of the Mackenzie River Basin. They will also address notification requirements in the event of an emergency, protocols for information exchange, and dispute resolution processes.
What is “Site C” and how does it relate the bilateral agreements?
Site C is a proposed hydro development in British Columbia on the Peace River. Located 60 km upstream of the Alberta border, it will be the third hydro development on the Peace River in BC. The operation of dams in British Columbia and the resulting flow regulation is the primary issue in the bilateral agreement with British Columbia. The environmental assessment of Site C and the development of the bilateral agreements will occur simultaneously. Alberta’s input into each process must be consistent and coordinated.
Ensuring Alberta's Interests are Represented
How will Alberta ensure that our interests are represented?
ESRD is working with northern municipalities, affected industry stakeholders, Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils, and non-government organizations to learn about their interests and concerns related to the Peace, Slave and Athabasca Rivers. This information will support Alberta’s participation in bilateral discussions.
How will the interests of First Nations and Métis be heard?
ESRD is also working to engage First Nations and Métis groups in Alberta on the bilateral agreements. Traditional knowledge is being sought to ensure a solid understanding of traditional uses of water and to incorporate that understanding into Alberta’s interests.
Where can I get more information?
Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development will continue to provide periodic updates on this process through this website.
For information on the Mackenzie River Basin Transboundary Waters Master Agreement and the Mackenzie River Basin Board Bilateral Water Management Agreements Guidance Document, please visit:
- Mackenzie River Basin Transboundary Waters Master Agreement
- Mackenzie River Basin Board Bilateral Water Management Agreements Guidance Document
For more information on Alberta’s other transboundary water management agreements, please visit:
For information about the BC Hydro’s Site C Project, please click here.
For more information, contact:
Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development
(780) 427 0428