IJC presents at 2023 American Water Resources Association Conference in North Carolina

Allison Arbuthnot
adam greeley discusses climate change framework awra

This year’s American Water Resources Association (AWRA) Annual Conference in November focused on water resource management solutions, highlighting the latest outcomes of federal funding initiatives, lessons from multidisciplinary projects and best practices in design and application. The IJC was pleased to hold its very first special session on “Transboundary Water Management: Challenges and Opportunities.”

A team of IJC experts shared insights on the innovative strategies for transboundary water management and promising opportunities emerging in the realm of shared water governance.

The special session at the conference, held Nov. 6-8 in Raleigh, North Carolina, highlighted the IJC’s commitment to fostering dialogue and the importance of cross-border cooperation in navigating water resource management.

IJC Environmental Advisor Catherine Lee-Johnston reflected on the successes of the International Watersheds Initiative (IWI), commemorating its 25th anniversary in 2023.

The IWI’s role in shaping transboundary water management by fostering local and Indigenous participation in addressing water challenges have been key components to the IJC’s mission, ensuring sustainable and inclusive water stewardship among the IJC’s key watershed and pilot watershed boards in the Souris River, Red River, Rainy River-Lake of the Woods and St. Croix River. Session participants were curious to learn about makeup of the IJC boards, the types of issues and disputes the IJC helps prevent and resolve, and how an IJC presence is initiated in transboundary watersheds.

participants awra 2023

Members from government, academics and practitioners participated in the AWRA conference. Credit: IJC.

One IJC expert, Avni Solanki, discussed the four-year St. Mary and Milk Rivers Study that began in 2021 and continues through 2025.  The study looks at how water apportionment is affected by climate change, and examines the impact of evolving conditions on water access between the Canada and the United States. Solanki, an Association for the Advancement of Science fellow at IJC, said that as climate change and infrastructure conditions continue to shape the St. Mary and Milk Rivers watershed, the study aims to identify potential improvements that will secure long-term resilience for both nations.

IJC Senior Engineering Advisor John Allis outlined the IJC’s adaptive management approach in reviewing regulation plans for the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River system. This approach, used during the reviews of regulation Plan 2014 and Plan 2012, involves modeling tools and public engagement to address the challenges posed by changing conditions and record-high water levels. The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Adaptive Management (GLAM) Committee plays a key role in monitoring, modeling and assessing regulation plans, showcasing a unique application of adaptive management to a transboundary watershed of this size. The presentation highlighted the technological advances, challenges and importance of stakeholder engagement in this review process.

The IJC prides itself in Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM). This approach involves coordinating diverse perspectives such as those from Indigenous communities, agriculture, municipalities and other stakeholders and rightsholders, to gain a consensus on water use regulations. Ideally, this helps develop regulations that will minimize harm to local ecosystems while maximizing socioeconomic benefits. IJC Policy Advisor Ed Virden presented on the use of the watershed-based approach and prioritizing common interests over political boundaries as the IJC fosters inclusive stakeholder engagement that enhances public awareness and interagency cooperation.

Finally, IJC Science Advisor Adam Greeley closed out the special session with a commitment to fostering collaborative efforts with local partners to enhance resilience in the face of climate change. The IJC aims to implement effective strategies, including the Climate Change Guidance Framework, to address evolving challenges and promote sustainable water management along the Canada-US border.

In June 2023, IJC Commissioners and staff attended the Canadian Water Resources Association Conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia. IJC staff gave similar presentations at AWRA and CWRA, continuing IJC efforts to foster binational dialogue to address water resource challenges.

Allison Arbuthnot

Allison Arbuthnot is a policy and public affairs intern at the US Section office of the IJC in Washington, D.C.