The International Watersheds Initiative (IWI) was created in 1998, after the Canadian and U.S. governments provided funding and direction for the effort. The IWI is about using a watershed-based approach to transboundary challenges like protecting water quality and managing levels and flows. A new brochure tells the story of the IWI.
The IWI grew out of an IJC report called “The IJC and the 21st Century,” issued in 1997. The idea was that taking a holistic view of water quality and quantity issues, and providing local organizations with technical tools, could help prevent and resolve local issues before they became international disputes.
Has it worked? That’s where the new brochure comes in. It details case studies of the International Watersheds Initiative. We’ve posted it online, and plan to distribute it at meetings and other events in IWI watersheds. We hope to spread the word about the IWI and boards that operate under the framework.
IWI boards are made up of an equal number of members from Canada and the U.S., who are appointed from diverse groups including governments, non-governmental organizations, industries, aboriginal communities, academic institutions, and the public.
Those include the St. Croix River Watershed Board, which helped sponsor studies with other organizations to analyze lake-level management and meteorological conditions in that area. The findings provided a scientific explanation that natural conditions, not a resurgence of alewives, had caused a decline in the bass population. In April 2013, access for alewife to the entire river system was restored by the Maine Legislature.
Alewives are vital to the food web and nutrient cycles of marine, freshwater and land habitats in the St. Croix River basin. As bait, they also help support coastal fisheries and lobster catching.
Other IWI boards include the Red River Board, which is working on a regional water quality model to track pollution inputs.
The model, called SPARROW, quantifies loadings of phosphorus at key locations in the Red and Assiniboine watersheds. The goal is to help governments set phosphorus reduction targets as part of a basin-wide nutrient management strategy and improve the ecological health of the entire watershed.
The newest IWI group, the Rainy-Lake of the Woods Watershed Board, is the first to have designated membership for First Nations, Métis and Tribes and an equal number of members from government and non-governmental organizations. The emphasis is on having a majority of members living within or connected closely to the basin. The Board also is supported by both a Community Advisory Group and an Industry Advisory Group.
These are only some examples of the successes of IWI and its related boards.
You can read more in the brochure, posted here.
In highlighting the IWI, we hope to draw attention to how stronger local involvement can support the actions of existing and future IJC watershed boards. We intend to explore interest in IWI goals and practices among other boards in the future.