Projects in Canada-United States watersheds avert international conflicts


The International Joint Commission (IJC) today released its Fourth Report to the Governments of Canada and the United States on the International Watersheds Initiative (IWI), which highlights achievements in developing tools, building capacity and supporting studies to aid local communities and water managers to anticipate, prevent and resolve water resource issues.   

The IWI is a program that funds projects to build capacity at the watershed scale in order to prevent or resolve international water-related issues. Beginning as a pilot program in 1998, the IWI has matured into one of the IJC’s flagship programs. 

"The IWI is about creating conditions at the watershed scale to address local and regional water related issues, which, if left un-addressed might become issues between citizens of both countries. The premise is that local people and institutions are often the best placed to anticipate, prevent or resolve many problems related to water resources and the environment and to take shared actions towards the common goals of sustainable stewardship," said Canadian Commissioner Richard Morgan. 

"Water knows no political boundaries.  For 17 years, the International Watersheds Initiative has strengthened capacity and developed common tools to support binational collaboration and promote sustainable stewardship of our shared waters," said U.S. Commissioner Dereth Glance. "The ecosystem approach embedded in IWI has matured from concept to a cornerstone guiding IJC’s activities along U.S.-Canada shared waters," Glance continued.  

Since 2010, the governments of Canada and the United States have invested a total of approximately $5 million in the IWI. By funding studies, decision-support tools and other work, this investment has provided the capacity to address a number of binational water-related issues, such as: 

  • The reintroduction of native alewives, or river herring to the St. Croix River system in Maine and New Brunswick;
  • The risk of introduction of new harmful fish pathogens and parasites into the Red River system in North Dakota, Minnesota and Manitoba by flow releases from Devils Lake;
  • How governments could proceed to better protect communities from major floods in the Souris (North Dakota, Saskatchewan and Manitoba), Red and Richelieu River-Lake Champlain (Vermont, New York and Quebec) basins; and
  • The impact of water levels regulation on fisheries, waterfowl and wild rice production in the Rainy-Lake of the Woods basin in Minnesota, Ontario and Manitoba. 

Approximately 40 percent of the governments’ investment in IWI since 2010 was spent on two strategic priorities: transboundary hydrographic data harmonization and binational water quality modeling. 

Data harmonization is essential to create a common set of data for binational collaboration on water management issues in watersheds along the Canada-U.S. boundary. The water quality model developed for the Red-Assiniboine River basin will support efforts to encourage basin-wide reductions in nutrient loading. The IJC is now focusing on supporting the binational application of water quality models being developed for the Rainy-Lake of the Woods and Great Lakes basins. 

The full text of the new report, The International Watersheds Initiative: From Concept to Cornerstone of the International Joint Commission, is available online. The IJC was established by the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 to help the governments of Canada and the United States prevent and resolve disputes over the use of the waters they share. More information can be found at


Nick Heisler                        Ottawa                613-992-8367          

Frank Bevacqua                Washington        202-736-9024