To implement the IWI approach, IJC boards use an integrated ecosystem approach and seek to facilitate watershed-level solutions to transboundary environmental challenges by promoting communication, collaboration, and coordination among the various stakeholders and interests.
Knowing that each watershed is unique, effective and lasting watershed-level solutions must consider the local context and cannot be executed from the outside looking in. IJC boards work to build a shared understanding of the watershed by communicating watershed issues at all levels, resolving watershed issues, and administering existing orders and references from the governments. Boards often form specialized committees to focus on a subset of watershed issues, and many board members bring their unique perspective as employees of various government agencies and indigenous communities with important roles in the basins. Boards also depend on public input through annual or semi-annual public meetings, as well as through other more informal channels.
The 1998 Reference from the two governments encouraged the IJC to draw on existing expertise, data, technology, and systems in setting up the IWI. Therefore, the IWI navigates through existing frameworks to promote and coordinate watershed-level approaches to transboundary issues. The IWI does receive some modest funding for projects, totaling $5 million from 2015-2020, from the two governments. This funding is attributed to projects to provide hydrologic and ecosystem analyses, data collection and harmonization, board support, and public outreach.
For the most part, IJC Boards are eligible to independently submit proposals for IWI funding. However, the Health Professionals Advisory Board and Boards created under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (Great Lakes Water Quality Board and Great Lakes Science Advisory Board) must partner with another Commission board when submitting IWI project proposals. Their proposals must align with the co-sponsoring board’s priorities and workplans. Any board project proposal must also comply with IWI funding criteria. For more information on this process, please refer to the next section on Funding Criteria.