This summer, IJC Commissioners and staff were pleased to participate in the Canadian Water Resources Association 2023 National Conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia, from June 18-21. With a theme of ”Rising with the tide: Working together to address water resource challenges”, the conference brought together water resources professionals from across Canada, the United States and beyond to share information, research and best practices on all aspects of water science and stewardship.
Commission Chairs Pierre Béland of Canada and Rob Sisson from the United States addressed conference banquet attendees, highlighting the rich history of Canada-US collaboration in preventing and resolving disputes over waters shared along the boundary. Much of this work has been enabled in recent years by the IJC’s International Watersheds Initiative, which celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2023.
“Our watershed boards are built on the engagement and dedication of many key partners, including Indigenous and local participants,” said Béland. “It’s local involvement, trust, cross-border considerations and inclusiveness which are key ingredients in the recipe for successful collaboration to prevent and solve problems.”
Reflecting on the theme of the sold-out conference, Sisson observed that, “Gatherings like this one are so important to the exchange of knowledge and ideas. Most importantly, they remind us of our shared mission and duty to work for the most fundamental and life-sustaining element: water.”
Delegates to the sold-out CWRA 2023 National Conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia, gather for a networking banquet on June 22. Credit: CWRA
During the week in Halifax, IJC was pleased to host a series of presentations on the challenges and opportunities of transboundary water management, including sessions by many of its partners from across the boundary region.
Some of the technical experts guiding the IJC’s International St. Mary and Milk Rivers Study discussed the shared vision planning approach they’ve adopted to examine whether opportunities exist to improve access to water shared by Canada and the United States in this semi-arid region. This four-year effort, concluding in 2025, will make recommendations to the IJC including the extent to which the impacts of climate change on water apportionment can be managed.
Another dedicated team of experts also presented work from the recently concluded Lake Champlain and Richelieu River Flood Study (2017-2022). This multi-agency effort studied the causes, impacts and risks of flooding in this transboundary basin and recommended potential solutions. Notably, the study yielded several mapping products and models having the potential to assist with future modeling and forecasting efforts. It is hoped that water managers and others will be able to leverage these tools to mitigate future flood risks and support emergency response and prevention efforts.
IJC staff shared opportunities and accomplishments of the International Watersheds Initiative, highlighting the front-line work of its watershed boards. Currently operating in the Souris River, Red River, Rainy River-Lake of the Woods and St. Croix River watersheds, these locally focused boards bring together a diversity of experts who work together to promote sound water stewardship using a holistic approach.
Since its inception in 1998, the International Watersheds Initiative has funded more than 100 projects across the boundary region, supporting research, collaboration and communication within watersheds shared along the border.
A Story Map highlighting many of these projects can be viewed here. Stay tuned for more information celebrating the 25th anniversary of the International Watersheds Initiative, including a special edition of the Shared Waters newsletter this fall.
From November 6-8, 2023, IJC Commissioners and staff also plan to join the American Water Resources Association’s annual conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, to continue the exchange of ideas and approaches to the management of transboundary waters.
From left to right, IJC staff Rob Caldwell, Erika Klyszejko, Catherine-Lee Johnston and Glenn Benoy greet delegates at the Commission’s booth at CWRA’s 2023 National Conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Credit: ECCC staff