The United States and Canadian federal governments have asked the International Joint Commission (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.

In its report to Governments, The IJC and the 21st century, the IJC proposed the international watershed board concept to build on cooperative efforts and successes achieved in the Great Lakes by offering to provide similar opportunities to other major transboundary basins through the establishment of permanent IJC international watershed boards. These boards would provide a much improved mechanism for avoiding and resolving transboundary disputes by building a capacity at the watershed level to anticipate and respond to the full range of water-related and other environmental challenges that may be foreseen for the 21st century.

Specifically, governments have asked the IJC to:


  • Define the general framework under which watershed boards would operate, which includes the definition of the scope of activities of the watershed boards and the definition of the operating principles of such boards;
  • Recommend the location of the first watershed board;
  • Recommend the structure, composition and terms of reference of the first international watershed board, including the priority issues that it would address;
  • Develop cost projections and possible sources of funding, including innovative funding mechanisms, for the formation and operation of the first international watershed board and for special studies that would be projected for its first few years of operation;
  • Consult provinces, states and both federal governments on the identification of locations and the development, planning and establishment of additional international watershed boards at appropriate times.

The IJC will undertake broad consultations with all interested parties as part of its examination of the watershed approach.

The International Joint Commission is a binational Canada-U.S. organization established by the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909. It assists the governments in managing waters along the border for the benefit of both countries in a variety of ways including examining issues referred to it by the two federal governments.

More information, including the full text of the letter of reference, may be found on the Commission's web site, at www.ijc.org/rel/comm/ref1198.html.


Washington, D.C. Frank Bevacqua 202.736.9024 Ottawa, ON Fabien Lengellé 613.995.0088