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Water Stewardship Division

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Transboundary Water Organizations

International Joint Commission

The Boundary Waters Treaty established the International Joint Commission to assist Governments in finding solutions to water problems and to resolve disputes. The International Joint Commission is comprised of six Commissioners, three from Canada and three from the United States. While the Canadian Commissioners are appointed by Cabinet and the United States Commissioners are appointed by the President, they swear allegiance to the Boundary Waters Treaty. The International Joint Commission is considered to be bi-national, independent, and impartial. The Commission undertakes investigations when requested by Governments through references. In order for the International Joint Commission to undertake an investigation, issues must be referred to the Commission by both Governments. The Commission reaches decisions by consensus and out of 53 transboundary issues and projects that have been referred to them all but two have been resolved.

International Red River Board

The hydrologic system of the Red River basin is complex and is influenced by many natural and human forces. To deal with this system, many government agencies and organizations have evolved with management responsibilities or interests in various aspects of its water and land resources. To ensure a more ecosystem based approach to transboundary water issues, in 2001 the International Joint Commission combined some of the ongoing activities and membership of the International Souris-Red Rivers Engineering Board and the International Red River Pollution Board into the International Red River Board.

The mandate of the International Red River Board is to assist the International Joint Commission in preventing and resolving transboundary disputes regarding the waters and aquatic ecosystem of the Red River and its tributaries and aquifers. This is to be accomplished through the application of best available science and knowledge of the aquatic ecosystem of the basin and an awareness of the needs, expectations and capabilities of residents of the Red River basin.

The geographical scope of the Board's mandate is the Red River basin, excluding the Assiniboine and Souris Rivers. Besides maintaining an awareness of the basin-wide activities and conditions that may affect water levels and flows, water quality and the ecosystem health of the Red River, the International Red River Board provides a continuing forum for the identification, discussion and resolution of existing and emerging water-related issues relevant to the Red River basin.

Members of the International Red River Board are appointed by the International Joint Commission with an equal number of members being appointed from Canada and the United States. One member from each country is appointed to act as co-chairs of the Board.

In 2004 the International Red River Board recommended to the IJC that participating jurisdictions and water management agencies work towards reducing the nutrient loading into Lake Winnipeg by 10% over the next five years. The International Joint Commission has subsequently informed governments that they endorse this recommendation.

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International Souris River Board

Several bi-national organizations have been established over the years to address Souris River transboundary water issues. In 2000, the International Joint Commission combined the ongoing responsibilities of the International Souris River Board of Control and the Souris River aspects of the International Souris-Red Rivers Engineering Board mandates into the International Souris River Board.

The mandate of the International Souris River Board is to assist the International Joint Commission in preventing and resolving disputes relating to transboundary waters of the Souris River basin. In addition to the apportionment of water across the international boundary the Board is also charged with maintaining an awareness of existing and proposed developments, activities, conditions and issues in the Souris River basin that may have an impact on transboundary water levels and flows.

The present International Souris River Board consists of six members, three each from Canada and the United States. A co-chair represents each country.

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Souris River Bilateral Water Quality Monitoring Group

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 establishment of a Bilateral Water Quality Monitoring Group which had the responsibility of dealing specifically with water quality, consistent with the provisions of the Boundary Waters Treaty. Members of both the International Souris River Board and the Bilateral Water Quality Monitoring Group have recognized the importance of better integrating water quality and quantity in an ecosystem based approach.

There have recently been discussions on the feasibility of combining the mandate of the International Souris River Board and the Souris River Bilateral Water Quality Monitoring Group.

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Prairie Provinces Water Board

The ownership of the waters of a river system flowing through several jurisdictions can give rise to many administrative and water use problems. In 1948 Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Canada formed the Prairie Provinces Water Board (PPWB) to recommend the best use of inter-provincial water and to help resolve conflicts between upstream and downstream users.

The mandate of the Prairie Provinces Water Board is to ensure eastward flowing inter-provincial streams are shared equitably, that water quality at inter-provincial boundaries is maintained at acceptable levels, and to facilitate a cooperative approach for the integrated development and management of inter-provincial streams and aquifers to ensure their sustainability.

The Prairie Provinces Water Board is made up of one representative each from Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, and two from the federal government. The Board has three permanent committees made up of personnel from provincial and federal agencies, which assist in technical work, such as data analysis, and provide advice to the Board. These committees are:

  • The Committee on Hydrology studies questions related to the quantity of water in streams crossing provincial borders. The committee also reviews natural flow calculations for use in the Master Agreement on Apportionment, which provides a simple formula for equal sharing of available water among the three provinces.
  • The Committee on Water Quality coordinates the PPWB water quality monitoring program, addresses issues about the quality of water crossing inter-provincial borders and is responsible for the Water Quality Contingency Plan. The contingency plan keeps downstream water users informed of any contaminant spills or unusual water quality conditions.
  • The Committee on Groundwater deals with questions related to the use and the quality of groundwater shared by the provinces.

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Shoal Lake Watershed Working Group

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 developed the Shoal Lake Watershed Management Plan with input from other stakeholders through events such as Focus Group and stakeholder presentation sessions, as well as public Open Houses.

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Red River Basin Commission

The Red River Basin Commission was formed in 2002 as a result of a merger between The Red River Basin Board, The International Coalition, and the Red River Water Resources Council. The Commission is made up of a 41member Board of Directors, comprised mainly of representatives of local government, including the cities, counties, rural municipalities, watershed boards, water resource districts, joint power boards, and First Nations representation, as well as a water supply cooperative, a lake improvement association, environmental groups, and four at-large members. The Governors of North Dakota and Minnesota, and the Premier of Manitoba have also appointed members to the Board of Directors.

The Red River Basin Commission was formed to initiate a grass roots effort to address land and water issues in a basin-wide context. The Commission has adopted a vision/mission statement and a set of Guiding Principles, based on input provided by Basin residents, to guide its future activities.

Water Stewardship Division | Sustainable Development is currently providing funding to the Red River Basin Commission to support activities such as community consultations with local Manitoba watershed authorities, assessment of international water protection initiatives, and public outreach on nutrient sources and potential nutrient reduction measures.

The Commission is currently hosting a number of public workshops throughout the Red River basin to make the public and leaders aware of the problems that nutrients can cause to surface water. These workshop activities are being funded by the International Joint Commission and Water Stewardship Division | Sustainable Development.

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