IJC Celebrates 90 Years of Canada-United States Cooperation


On Monday, January 11, 1999, the International Joint Commission (IJC) will celebrate 90 years of helping the United States and Canada to cooperatively address shared environmental concerns and looks to the future with initiatives to help address the environmental challenges of the 21st century.

The Boundary Waters Treaty, signed on January 11, 1909, established the IJC to prevent and resolve disputes over the use of shared waters and to provide independent advice on other transboundary environmental issues. The IJC has developed water quality objectives for, and monitored the restoration of the Great Lakes and other watersheds along the common boundary. It also oversees the operation of several hydropower projects that affect water levels and flows across the boundary and alerts the two countries to transboundary air quality issues of concern.

More recently, both the American and Canadian federal governments have approved an IJC report entitled The IJC and the 21st century and have asked the IJC to further examine the international watershed approach as a mechanism to anticipate and respond to the range of water-related and other environmental challenges that are expected to occur as we enter the 21st century.

As competition for water resources intensifies around the globe, theBoundary Waters Treaty and the IJC provide a tested model of how two nations can peacefully share boundary waters in a mutually beneficial manner.

More information about the Boundary Waters Treaty and the IJC as well as the report The IJC and the 21st century can be found on the IJC's web site at: www.ijc.org.

Contacts: Washington, D.C.: Frank Bevacqua (202) 736-9024   Ottawa, ON: Fabien Lengellé (613) 995-0088


Boundary Waters Treaty and International Joint Commission Facts

Boundary Waters Treaty


  • Signed January 11, 1909;
  • Establishes the International Joint Commission;
  • Provides for binational approval of projects that would affect the natural level or flow of boundary waters or that would raise the level of rivers flowing across the boundary;
  • Provides that waters shall not be polluted on either side to the injury of health or property on the other.

Shared waters along the common boundary


  • More than half of the 8,840 kilometre (5,525 mile) boundary passes through water;
  • The Great Lakes contain approximately 22,800 cubic kilometres (5,470 cubic miles) of water or one-fifth of all the earth’s surface freshwater.

International Joint Commission


  • Six Commissioners: three appointed by U.S. President with advice and consent of the Senate and three appointed by the Government of Canada;
  • Commissioners seek the best interests of both countries in accordance with the Boundary Waters Treaty and do not receive instructions from their respective governments;
  • Commissioners are supported by staff section offices in Washington and Ottawa, and a Great Lakes Regional Office in Windsor, Ontario;
  • Most technical work is carried out by approximately 20 international boards, councils and task forces made up of equal numbers of experts from the U.S. and Canada.