International Red River Board: Brochure

Date
Precis

 

The following brochure by the International Red River Board showcases the Board's role and mandate and highlights examples of the Board's current work.

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Helping prevent and resolve transboundary water disputes by providing advice on matters affecting the quality, levels and integrity of the Red River ecosystem

 

Map of Red River Basin - Credit: International Joint Commission
Map of Red River Basin - Credit: International Joint Commission

 

The Red River flows north from its headwaters in Minnesota and South Dakota, across the international boundary, and discharges into Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba. Its drainage basin covers 116,500 square kilometers (about 45,000 square miles), excluding the Assiniboine River basin. The basin’s hydrologic system is complex and influenced by many natural and human forces. Streamflow in the basin is highly variable from season-to-season and year-to-year. As a result, floods and droughts are major concerns.

 

The Emerson station is used to monitor Red River water quality and flow at the Canada-US border. Credit: Allison Waedt, Environment and Climate Change Canada
The Emerson station is used to monitor Red River water quality and flow at the Canada-US border. Credit: Allison Waedt, Environment and Climate Change Canada

 

The Boundary Waters Treaty

Signed in 1909 by Canada and the United States, the Boundary Waters Treaty established the International Joint Commission (IJC) to prevent and resolve disputes over the use of waters shared by the two countries. In the absence of specific agreements, the IJC approves uses, obstructions or diversions of water that will affect natural water levels or flow in the two countries. The IJC also may be asked by either government to investigate and recommend solutions regarding issues such as the quality or apportionment of water.

 

Electrofishing in Lake Winnipeg to catch fish to be tagged with transmitters. Credit: Camille Macnaughton, Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Electrofishing in Lake Winnipeg to catch fish to be tagged with transmitters. Credit: Camille Macnaughton, Fisheries and Oceans Canada

 

The International Red River Board

The International Red River Board was established by the IJC in April 2000 to help and assist in resolving transboundary disputes regarding the waters and aquatic ecosystem of the Red River, its tributaries and aquifers. The geographic scope of the board is the Red River basin excluding the Assiniboine and Souris rivers.

A key board responsibility is to monitor the water quality and aquatic health of the river at the international boundary. Additional responsibilities include:

  • Maintaining an awareness of basin activities that affect stream flows, water quality and the ecosystem health of the Red River and its transboundary tributaries;
  • Providing a forum for the identification and resolution of existing and emerging transboundary water-related issues; 
  • Recommending appropriate strategies concerning water quality, quantity and aquatic ecosystem health objectives; 
  • Monitoring and reporting on flood preparedness and mitigation activities

 

Staff using a water quality sonde to take a spot measurement. Credit: Allison Waedt, Environment and Climate Change Canada
Staff using a water quality sonde to take a spot measurement. Credit: Allison Waedt, Environment and Climate Change Canada

 

Examples Of Current Work

Nutrient Management Strategy

The board has developed a comprehensive nutrient management strategy for the Red River. The strategy includes six recommendations.

Fish Movement Study

A large-scale hydroacoustic telemetry study monitoring a number of fish species (bigmouth buffalo, burbot, channel catfish, common carp, freshwater drum, lake sturgeon, walleye) provides information on fisheries movement and habitat use. This information will help managers better understand instream flow needs, important spawning areas and the population structure and movement of fish between Canada and the United States in the basin.

Water Quality Trends

A recent basin-wide study of water quality trends in the basin that accounts for variabilities in climate and stream flow provides an understanding of how conditions are changing in the international basin a review of water quality objectives for the Red River at the Canada-US border.

 

Water monitoring work along the Red River. Credit: Allison Waedt, Environment and Climate Change Canada
Water monitoring work along the Red River. Credit: Allison Waedt, Environment and Climate Change Canada

 

Flood Preparedness and Mitigation

Flood preparedness in the Red River valley has improved tremendously since the devastating flood of 1997. The board, through its numerous agency representatives, continues to note the progress of flood mitigation projects throughout the basin.

Drought Planning, Monitoring and Preparedness

The Red River is susceptible to periods of dry conditions that have the potential to adversely impact ecological conditions and water supply.

To understand the potential for drought conditions in the basin, a project now underway uses a statistical model to derive a series of possible streamflow scenarios over various time spans for the Red River and its tributaries. The results will be used to characterize the potential for periods of extreme low flows and help inform preparedness actions over the next 50 years.

 

Organization
International Red River Board