International Rainy-Lake of the Woods Watershed Board

Resolve and prevent disputes

International Rainy-Lake of the Woods Watershed Board resolves and prevents disputes over water between the US and Canada in the border watershed. 

The International Rainy Lake of the Woods Watershed Board (the Watershed Board) monitors water quality and quantity in the Rainy - Lake of the Woods watershed under a directive of the International Joint Commission (IJC), a bi-national body created under the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty.

This watershed of over 69,000 km2 (26,000 mi2) extends from the Quetico-Superior boundary waters in the east to the outlet of the Lake of the Woods at Kenora, Ontario, including the Fork and other tributary basins of the Rainy River.  Nearly 60 percent of its drainage area is located in Ontario, with about 40 percent in Minnesota and a small portion in Manitoba.

Under a 1925 Treaty, the Canada‑United States of America Convention and Protocol for Regulating the Level of the Lake of the Woods, and of Identical Letters of Reference Submitting to the International Joint Commission certain Questions as to the Regulation of the Levels of Rainy Lake and other Upper Waters, the International Joint Commission had been asked by the United States and Canadian governments a number of times to control the regulation of the dams on the Rainy River and the outlets of Namakan Lake.  In 1941, the IJC established the International Rainy Lake Board of Control to respond to emergency conditions.

In 1966, the International Joint Commission established the International Rainy River Water Pollution Board, in response to concerns for the heavily polluted water of the Rainy River from industrial inputs.  The Pollution Board was quite successful in improving the water quality in the Rainy River within the next 20 years. 

In April 2013, the International Joint Commission combined the above two boards and created the Watershed Board with a broader mandate to monitor and report on the ecological health of the aquatic ecosystem, while continuing the mandate of the two previous boards.

The Watershed Board has 10 members from each country including from federal, provincial and state government agencies, First Nations, Métis and tribes, and local citizens.  A Community Advisory Group and an Industry Advisory Group help the Watershed Board in its mandate to inform the International Joint Commission of emerging issues in the watershed and to protect the boundary waters.