Historic Moment for Cooperatively Managed Water Resources

May 19, 2015

The Governments of the Northwest Territories and Alberta signed a transboundary water agreement on March 19, 2015, marking a historic moment in cooperatively managed water resources along the Mackenzie River Basin. The Basin is among the most intact large-scale ecosystems in North America, and the largest north-flowing river in North America. 

The signing of this agreement builds upon the 1997 Mackenzie River Basin Transboundary Water Master Agreement, signed by Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories, and Yukon as well as the federal government.

The Mackenzie River Basin Bilateral Water Management Agreement functions as a legally binding aquatic ecosystems agreement for “maintaining ecosystem integrity”. It includes ecosystem indicators to monitor the system, using present-day ecosystem health as the baseline. It is a science-based agreement to maintain the current ecological integrity of the system, in consideration of cumulative effects.

"The transboundary water agreement between NWT and Alberta, one of 7 eventual agreements that will work to protect the Mackenzie River Basin, creates a cooperative approach that is truly the only way to achieve water security in these times of increasing complexity of water management," says Ms. Merrell-Ann Phare, Chief Negotiator for the Transboundary Water Agreement. "Strong, collaborative relationships being in place before crises are upon us are what will hold us in good stead. That, along with a common vision that acknowledges that the health of human systems is built on the health of ecosystems. The transboundary water agreements set out that vision and create the foundation for those relationships in the Mackenzie River Basin."

Canadian Water Network, a strategic national advisor and knowledge broker for water, commends the agreement as a collaborative accomplishment in regards to how water is monitored in the basin, and how disputes will be resolved.

The agreement ensures that effective communication occurs between parties regarding resource development projects that might impact the basin’s aquatic ecosystems. The agreement also heavily builds upon the Northwest Territories' Northern Voices, Northern Waters: NWT Water Stewardship Strategy, developed in collaboration with Aboriginal groups, communities, regional organizations, environmental non-government organizations, industry, government and residents. An additional significant aspect of the agreement is the premise that no single interest, be it economic, environmental or other, will take priority over another.

Please visit the following sites for more information: