At its core, the International Watersheds Initiative (IWI) combines an ecosystems-based approach to transboundary challenges with a grounded belief that local communities are best suited to solving problems.
Not constrained by traditional political boundaries , the IWI aims to leverage local expertise from across transboundary watersheds to find solutions to common issues. In so doing, the effort allows for solutions to become reality while enhancing communications and the management of resources.
The International Joint Commission created the IWI following a 1998 request by the Canadian and United States governments. Projects funded through the IWI help IJC boards deliver on their responsibilities. These projects have included investigating transboundary water issues, supporting local community efforts to manage resources, promoting communication and conducting scientific studies. Projects benefit from important collaboration with government agencies, local people and organizations, Indigenous communities and other important partners.
Projects under the IWI range from fish counts and tracking in the St. Croix River to the development of a user-friendly water levels visualization tool for Kootenay Lake, investigating the impact of water management on wild rice in the Lake of the Woods-Rainy River basin and the hydrological mapping of entire binational watersheds.
Transparency and Communication
Over the last few years, the IWI has been increasingly focused on transparency and communicating the progress and outcomes of different projects it has funded.
A new IWI online dashboard offers a user-friendly visualization tool which supports communication among boards, the public, governments and project partners.
The interactive tool is ideal for anyone looking for information on existing or completed IWI projects. It is a particularly good visual aid, since it highlights the key components of each project.
The dashboard displays an overview of all IWI projects since 2015, both completed and ongoing. It also presents a map of transboundary basins; each basin where IWI projects have taken place is color-coded according to the number of ongoing and completed projects. Individual projects are listed by project title.
There are numerous functionalities within the dashboard. For example, it can be filtered to display only projects pertaining to a specific basin, either by selecting the basin name in the highlighted blue ribbon or by clicking on the basin on the map.
With the number of IWI projects growing, it is increasingly important that project information is accessible as well user-friendly, and easy to navigate and understand. Among other potential benefits, sharing ideas and approaches used successfully in one basin may inspire and shape IWI efforts in another.
For further information on specific projects, including results and reports, see the IWI projects page.
The IJC issues periodic reports to governments on the IWI effort. The most-recent Fifth Report was posted in late 2020.
Désirée Estephan-Saliba is an International Watersheds Initiative projects student working with the science and engineering section of the IJC.
Nazifa Uddin is a geospatial projects student working with the science and engineering section of the IJC.