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The Boundary Waters Treaty between Canada and the United States was signed in 1909 and provides the principles and mechanisms to help resolve disputes and to prevent future disputes concerning water quantity and water quality along the boundary between Canada and the United States.
Article IV of the Boundary Waters Treaty states, in part, "waters flowing across the boundary shall not be polluted on either side to the injury of health or property of the other side."
The ownership of the waters of a river system flowing through several jurisdictions can give rise to many administrative and water use problems. To resolve conflicts between upstream uses and downstream needs, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Canada signed the Prairie Provinces Water Board Agreement in 1948. This agreement worked well until the 1960's, when the provinces began requesting large allocations of water. In 1969, the parties to the original agreement signed the Master Agreement on Apportionment, which continues to guide the activities of the Prairie Provinces Water Board to this day.
The Master Agreement on Apportionment contains a simple formula based on the principle of equal sharing of available water in the prairies. The formula states that Alberta and Saskatchewan may each take up to one half of the natural flow of water originating within their boundaries and one half of the flow entering the province. The remainder is left to flow into Manitoba. Although calculating natural flow can be difficult the results of the Master Agreement on Apportionment are that all three provinces, even in drought periods, end up with approximately equal shares of the total water flow.
The Shoal Lake Watershed encompasses multiple jurisdictions and a watershed management plan was needed to help guide management of the watershed based upon achieving a sustainable balance among ecological, social, and economic needs.
The Shoal Lake Watershed Management Plan contains information that assesses the state of water and related resources, evaluates human impacts and influences, and considers the needs and interests of watershed residents and resource users. It also establishes goals, objectives, principles and strategies to fulfill those needs.
The Shoal Lake Watershed Working Group, comprised of representatives from the First Nation communities located on Shoal Lake, the Federal Government, the provinces of Ontario and Manitoba and the City of Winnipeg, has presented the watershed management plan to respective governments for endorsement consideration. At the present time, not all governments have endorsed the plan and continue with their review.
In order to provide for development, in 1989 Canada and the United States entered into an agreement for water supply and flood control in the Souris River Basin. This agreement called for the construction, operation and maintenance of reservoir projects in the Canadian portion of the basin. It was intended that these projects would provide water supply benefits in Canada and flood control benefits in the United States in a manner consistent with the Boundary Waters Treaty.
This agreement also called for the establishment of a Bilateral Water Quality Monitoring Group to development recommendations on water quality objectives.