IWI project proposals originate from two places; they either come from IJC boards as part of workplans or they are strategic initiatives. Board-initiated projects are those that are applicable to their board and watershed, whereas strategic initiatives are multi board driven across multiple watersheds. Official calls for proposals and proposal deadlines are sent to the boards twice a year, in the spring and the fall. These dates correspond to the beginning of the fiscal years for Canada (April 1) and the U.S. (October 1). All projects submitted by the boards undergo a rigorous evaluation from the IWI Review Committee. The Committee is comprised of IJC staff that includes the Canadian and U.S. secretaries and legal, engineering, scientific and communications personnel from the Ottawa and Washington offices. Under IJC funding criteria, IWI project proposals are required to address one or more of three overarching themes:
- Building a shared scientific understanding of the watershed issues by harmonizing data and information, developing shared tools, knowledge and expertise, and expanding outreach to and cooperation among stakeholders. This could include projects such as models, scientific investigation etc.
- Communicating transboundary water issues at the local, regional, and national levels, including First Nations, Métis and American Tribes, to increase awareness and understanding of these important issues. This could include projects such as geospatial products, literature, visualization products, etc.
- Contributing to the resolution of watershed issues by facilitating discussions, participating in development of shared solutions, creating decision-making tools, fostering common ground, brokering resolutions, and bringing unresolved issues to the attention of the IJC. This could include projects such as studies on high water events, communications projects etc.
In addition to these themes, boards submitting projects should consider: whether their project could have applicability to other boards, whether the proposed project is included in their board workplan, and whether the board is in agreement with the submission of the proposal. These factors are considered along with the IWI themes during the review process.