Section 2: The 1950 Niagara Treaty

2.1 What is the 1950 Niagara Treaty?

The 1950 Niagara Treaty was signed between the United States and Canada on February 27, 1950. The Treaty concerns the diversion of waters flowing out of Lake Erie to the Welland Canada and the Niagara River (including the Black Rock Canal) and the initial paragraph thereof states that the two Governments recognize "their primary obligation to preserve and enhance the scenic beauty of the Niagara Falls and River and, consistent with that obligation, their common interest in providing for the most beneficial use of the waters of that River". Waters that were diverted into the natural drainage area of the Great Lakes System through the Long Lac-Ogoki works are covered under an exchange of notes between Governments, and are not included in the water allocated under the provisions of the Niagara Treaty.

2.2 What are the principal provisions of the 1950 Niagara Treaty?

The Treaty establishes minimum amounts of water that must flow over Niagara Falls throughout the days of the year to preserve the scenic beauty of the Falls and establishes an order of precedence of use of the water (e.g. including domestic and sanitary purposes and navigation). Water that is in excess of these minimums is split equally between both Countries and can be used for hydropower production.

2.3 What are the minimum flows over Niagara Falls?

The 1950 Niagara Treaty established minimum flows over Niagara Falls for scenic purposes. Note that Niagara Falls refers to the sum of the flow over the American and Horseshoe Falls. The Treaty states that the flow over Niagara Falls should not be less than 2832 m3/s (100,000 ft3/s) each day between the hours of 8 a.m., E.S.T., and 10 p.m., E.S.T., during the period of each year beginning April 1 and ending September 15, inclusive; and each day between the hours of 8 a.m., E.S.T., and 8 p.m., E.S.T., during the period of each year beginning September 16 and ending October 31, inclusive. Falls flow should not be less than 1416 m3/s (50,000 ft3/s) at any other time.

2.4 How are the waters at Niagara divided between uses and Canada and the United States?

Water in excess of the Falls flow minimums and other priority uses is equally distributed between both the countries for potential hydropower generation, with the exception that the amounts diverted into the Great Lakes basin from the Long Lac and Ogoki works belong to Canada exclusively. This amount was set at 141.6 m3/s (5000 ft3/s).

2.5 What happens when there is a minimum Treaty flow violation?

The on-site representatives (Canada / United States) of the International Niagara Committee (INC) conduct weekly inspections to ensure compliance with conditions of the Treaty and to investigate violations. After a minimum Treaty flow violation, the on-site representatives will conduct an investigation and report to the INC member of his/her country while also communicating with the other country’s members. The INC member records the amount of the violation (which is reported to Governments in the INC annual report) and then they may take further action if necessary.