About the Board
The Souris River Basin
The Souris River originates in the Province of Saskatchewan, passes through the State of North Dakota, and then crosses into the Province of Manitoba before joining the Assiniboine River. Its total length is approximately 435 miles. The river valley is flat and shallow, and its semi-arid prairie has been extensively cultivated. Major reservoirs have been constructed in both the U.S. and Canadian portions of the basin, including Boundary, Rafferty and Alameda Reservoirs in Saskatchewan, and Lake Darling in North Dakota. The basin also includes a number of wildlife refuges and small impoundments along the U.S. portion of the river.
Several binational organizations have been established over the years to address Souris River transboundary water issues. These include the IJC’s International Souris River Board of Control and International Souris-Red Rivers Engineering Board, and the U.S. and Canadian governments’ Souris River Bilateral Water Quality Monitoring Group.
The History of IJC Involvement in the Souris River Basin
International Souris River Board of Control: In January 1940, the governments requested the IJC to investigate and report on regulation, use and flow of the Souris River and its tributaries and the apportionment of water between the two countries. In its report of October 1940 to the governments, the IJC recommended Interim Measures for cross-border sharing of the waters of the Souris River. The governments approved the Interim Measures in 1941. In a further report to governments in 1958, the IJC recommended changes to the 1940 measures which would allow Saskatchewan and North Dakota rights to divert, store and use waters originating in their respective portions of the basin subject to Saskatchewan not diminishing flows across the boundary by more than 50% of the natural flow, and to require North Dakota to deliver, as far as practicable, 20 cubic feet per second (cfs) to Manitoba from June to October annually (link to 1959 Interim Measures). The IJC established the International Souris River Board of Control to monitor compliance with the Interim Measures. The Interim Measures were further revised in 1992 to allow evaporative losses from reservoirs in Saskatchewan to be taken into account in the annual allocation of water (link to Interim Measures as Modified in 1992). A further revision to the apportionment arrangements was made by the governments of Canada and the United States in December 2000 to clarify certain aspects of Annex B of the Canada-United States Agreement For Water Supply and Flood Control in the Souris River Basin (link to December 2000 revisions).
International Souris-Red Rivers Engineering Board: In response to a request from the governments of Canada and the U.S. in January 1948, the IJC established the International Souris-Red Rivers Engineering Board to report on the use and apportionment of the waters within the Souris, Red, Poplar and Big Muddy river basins and to develop plans of mutual advantage for these waters. The Board has been involved in numerous issues over the years. The board has reported routinely on water use and development activities that could have transboundary impacts. The Board was guided in its work by the 1948 letter from the U.S. and Canadian governments to the IJC requesting its assistance for the Souris and Red River basins (link to 1948 reference letter).
International Souris River Board (ISRB): To ensure a more-ecosystemic approach to transboundary water issues and achieve operational efficiencies in the conduct of IJC responsibilities, the IJC combined the ongoing responsibilities of the International Souris River Board of Control and the Souris River aspects of the International Souris-Red Rivers Engineering Board into the International Souris River Board (ISRB) in 2000. The ISRB assists the IJC in preventing and resolving disputes relating to transboundary waters of the Souris River basin. In 2017, IJC received a reference (request) from governments to examine and report on flooding and water supply issues in the Souris River basin. To address and deliver on matters raised in the reference, the IJC developed the International Souris River Study Board (Study Board). The Study Board submitted its final report to the IJC in September 2021. Following a comprehensive governance review from April 2021 through May 2022, the IRSB mandate was further modified to improve and foster Indigenous engagement. The board operates under a Directive from the IJC dated November 17, 2022.