IJC Directive to the Great Lakes Water Quality Board


The 2012 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement states that the Great Lakes Water Quality Board (WQB) shall be the principal advisor to the International Joint Commission (IJC) on matters related to the Commission’s responsibilities under the Agreement. It further states that the WQB shall assist the Commission by:

  1. Reviewing and assessing progress of the Parties in implementation of this Agreement;

  2. Identifying emerging issues and recommending strategies and approaches for preventing and resolving the complex challenges facing the Great Lakes; and

  3. Providing advice on the role of relevant jurisdictions to implement these strategies and approaches

This mandate sets the context for the detailed functions of the WQB.


The Great Lakes Water Quality Board shall:

  1. assist the Commission in its review and assessment of the Parties’ progress in implementing the Agreement, including the provision of advice on the content of the Commission’s triennial Assessment of Progress Report;

  2. identify emerging issues and recommend to the Commission strategies and approaches for preventing and resolving the complex challenges facing the Great Lakes, including advice on the role of relevant jurisdictions to implement these strategies and approaches;

  3. provide expert opinion or advice on matters related to the Agreement and its annexes;

  4. at the Commission’s request, review and comment on Commission draft reports and provide advice on issues related to the waters of the Great Lakes; and

  5. provide the public with an opportunity to participate in Board meetings and activities.


Membership of the Water Quality Board (WQB) will include an equal number of Canadians and Americans.

The Board will be Co-Chaired by one Canadian member and one American member, appointed by the Commission. The Commission may appoint either governmental or non-governmental members as Co-Chairs.

The Commission will use the composition below as a guide for making appointments to the Board, although the Commission has the discretion to alter membership as required.  In making appointments, the Commission will take into account competencies needed to conduct the work assigned by the Commission to the Board.

Canadian members:

  • One member from the business community;

  • One member from the agriculture community;

  • Two members from environmental non-governmental organizations;

  • Two members at large;

  • One member from a watershed authority; 

  • Two members from municipal governments;

  • One member from First Nations;

  • One member from Métis;

  • One member nominated by Environment Canada;

  • One member nominated by the government of the Province of Ontario; 

  • One member nominated by the government of the Province of Quebec.

U.S. members:

  • One member from the business community;

  • One member from the agriculture community;

  • Two members from environmental nongovernmental organizations;

  • Three members at large.

  • Two members from municipal governments;

  • Two members from Tribes;

  • One member nominated by the Environmental Protection Agency;

  • One member nominated by the Council of Great Lakes Governors;

  • One member nominated by the Great Lakes Commission.

The Commission will seek to include members from across the geographical breadth of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence System.

With the exception of initial members, who will be appointed to staggered terms ranging from one to three years, Board members will generally be appointed for 3-year terms and reappointments are possible for a maximum of three terms. Members’ contributions to the advancement of the work plan of the WQB and the priorities of the Commission, as well as area of expertise, will be the primary consideration for potential reappointment. Terms will be staggered so that approximately one third of the appointments will be expiring each year.

Member Competencies

In general, members will have one or both of the following competencies:

Extensive knowledge of and experience in addressing Great Lakes water quality policy matters. Members meeting this requirement will have a minimum of five years of experience and/or participation in Great Lakes water policy matters as an analyst, advocate, manager or policymaker.  A member not having a full five years of experience will also be eligible if she or he has a variety of experience regarding Great Lakes water policy and holds an advanced degree in a field closely related to Great Lakes water quality policy.
Extensive experience in governmental program implementation and administration. Members meeting this requirement will have a minimum of five years of experience in governmental water policy implementation and/or administration.
In lieu of these competencies, the Commission may also appoint members deemed to contribute information and insights not otherwise available among WQB members.

Responsibilities of Co-Chairpersons

With support of a board Secretary and other staff designated by the GLRO Director, the WQB Co-Chairpersons will be responsible for the following: scheduling and setting the agendas for meetings; managing the work of the WQB; and, reporting to the Commission on progress on work plans, activities and accomplishments.

With the support of the board Secretary, each of the Co-Chairpersons shall be responsible for maintaining proper liaison between the WQB and the Commission, ensuring that the members of the WQB are informed of all instructions, inquiries and authorizations received from the Commission and of activities undertaken by, or on behalf of, the WQB and progress made in implementing its annual work plan.

If in the opinion of the WQB as a whole or of any members, there is a lack of clarity or precision in any instruction, directive or authorization received from the Commission, the Co-Chairpersons will promptly refer the matter to the GLRO Director and the Commission for appropriate action.

Should the WQB be unable to reach agreement regarding any matter within its area of responsibility, the Co-Chairpersons shall promptly notify the GLRO Director, who shall alert the Commission.

Responsibilities of Members

Members will be required to commit to the work of the WQB with the expectation that there may be a significant time commitment required at certain points. Co- Chairpersons, however, will be expected to commit additional effort.

Members are expected to serve in an impartial manner, performing their duties for the common good of both countries. The work of the WQB must be conducted in a manner that merits public trust and confidence.  Members are to avoid any real, apparent, or potential conflicts of interest. Any questions on conflicts of interest raised by members of the Board should be directed to the Director of the GLRO. As appropriate, the GLRO Director will direct the question to the Commission’s Legal Advisers.

Members will be expected to contribute constructively to the work of the Board throughout the appointed term. If a member is not able to meet any of the above expectations the member may resign or be excused from service by the Commission at any point during the member’s term.

Members are expected to attend all meetings of the WQB and committees of which they are members. Although it is understood that absences may occur, frequent absences may result in the Commission excusing a member from further participation on WQB and the appointment of a replacement member.

Whenever a member, for any reason, will not be available to act as a member of the WQB for a specific meeting, she or he may notify the WQB Secretary and request the designation of an alternate to act in his/her stead for a specific meeting. No person may act as an alternate without such notification and agreement with the Secretary to the WQB. It is a Commission policy that alternates be used sparingly.



The WQB will convene at least quarterly and hold a minimum of two of these meetings in-person on an annual basis. The WQB will convene one meeting in-person each year at one of the semi-annual meetings in Washington or Ottawa.  Other in-person meetings will take place in Windsor (using the GLRO offices when appropriate) and/or locations around the Basin, the latter to facilitate public engagement and transparency. The remainder of the meetings should take place by teleconference or videoconference.

At least one in-person WQB meeting and one teleconference or videoconference WQB meeting each year shall be open to the public and the public will be provided a designated time for comment on matters before the WQB at these meetings. The WQB will also solicit, when appropriate, timely comment from the public on matters before the Board.

In general, Commissioners and relevant Commission staff are invited to attend all meetings and proceedings of the Board and its committees. The Board Secretary will advise the Co-Chairpersons of Commissioners’ and Commission staff participation. The Board may exclude staff in extraordinary circumstances after notifying the GLRO Director.

With support of its Secretary and staff, the WQB will develop an annual meeting schedule and post it on the IJC website. Following each meeting, the Board Secretary will prepare meeting summaries for the Board’s approval, which will be posted on the IJC website within a month.


Subject to Commission direction and approval, the WQB may establish such ad hoc or standing committees as it deems necessary to conduct its business, such as a committee consisting of members from each of the state and provincial governments. The Commission shall be kept informed of the duties and composition of any such committees.

Any committee members recruited from outside the regular Board membership shall be given a copy of this document as well as other orientation materials as appropriate and in the conduct of their Commission activities are expected to undertake member responsibilities similar to a regular Board member, except with respect to hours of service.  The expected commitment should be appropriate to the task of the Committee and discussed with the potential member when they are recruited.

Work Planning and Reporting

The WQB shall prepare an annual work plan for its proposed activities. The plan will include provision for public information and for public participation in WQB activities to the extent appropriate. This plan will be presented to the GLRO Director and the Commission for approval prior to each spring semi-annual meeting and be reviewed with the Commission and GLRO Director at the fall semi-annual meeting, or more frequently if required.

To facilitate preparation of the GLRO annual budget, the WQB will also provide the GLRO Director with proposed resource requirements for its work plan. This budget will be prepared in consultation with the GLRO Director and submitted with the work plan. The Commission will review and approve, disapprove and/or amend the proposed resource requirements.

The WQB will be  invited to appear at the Commissions’ spring and fall semi-annual meeting (in person preferably or, if necessary, by video or teleconference) to report on the Board’s activities and discuss any issues related to performance, support, forward planning or any other topic of interest to the WQB or Commissioners.

Liaison with the Great Lakes Science Advisory Board

The WQB will establish and maintain effective liaison and cooperation with the Commission's Great Lakes Science Advisory Board (SAB) in accordance with arrangements to be made by the Co-Chairpersons and Secretaries of the two Boards. The WQB may at any time request research and science advice from the SAB in consultation with the Commission on matters of mutual interest or responsibility.


Administrative support, public information services, and technical assistance to the WQB, will be provided by the GLRO.

The GLRO Director, in consultation with the Commission, will manage staff support, including the appointment of a Secretary, for the WQB. The Secretary will be responsible to the WQB on WQB matters and will typically participate in the full proceedings of all WQB meetings. The Secretary will serve as the principal point of contact for Board members and will provide clarity regarding the Commission’s rules and procedures, as required. The WQB Secretary will periodically report to Commissioners on member attendance and the use of alternates to ensure that Commission policies on attendance and limiting the use of alternates are being respected.

Liaisons from the Commission Section offices will typically participate in the full proceedings of all meetings of the WQB to ensure communication of Commission direction and cross-communication among ongoing efforts by IJC staff, the GLRO Director, the Great Lakes Science Advisory Board, the Health Professionals Advisory Board, the International Air Quality Advisory Board and other relevant Boards and task forces.

Other Commission personnel will be assigned to provide assistance to the Board, as determined through Commission review of the Board’s work plan and resource requests.

The public relations of the Board will be handled through the public information service of the GLRO.  GLRO staff will also coordinate any interactions with the media. Particular public relations activities and related resource requirements to be undertaken should be outlined in the Board’s work plan and in documents developed during the year and presented to the GLRO Director for approval or for further consideration by the Commission.

Any official communication by the WQB with Governments or their agencies regarding WQB matters must be approved by the Commission.

The Co-Chairpersons of the WQB shall consult with the GLRO Director, and as necessary, with the Commission regarding the WQB's support requirements and how they can best be met. In the event of disagreement between the WQB and the GLRO which cannot be resolved satisfactorily by the Co-Chairpersons and the Director of the GLRO, the matter shall be referred promptly to the Commission for decision. Should such occasion arise, the originator shall inform the others in advance of such communication and its contents.

While Board members will seek to reach a consensus on their advice to the Commission, individual members will determine whether their signatures will accompany reports to the Commission.  In some circumstances individual members may choose to withhold their signatures or submit an independent report.  These independent reports may be submitted directly to the Commissioners, with a copy provided to the Board co-chairs.


The secretariat of the Board shall be maintained at the GLRO and all pertinent records and supporting documents shall be maintained at that office.

Documents, letters, memoranda and communications of every kind in the official records of the Commission are privileged and become available for public information only after release by the Commission. The Commission considers all documents, including WQB reports to the Commission, in the official records ofthe WQB or of any of its committees to be similarly privileged. Accordingly, all such documents shall be so identified and maintained in separate files. They will become available for public information only after Commission approval.


For governmental WQB and governmental committee members, their agencies are expected to pay costs for participation in WQB activities. The necessary expenses of non-governmental WQB and non-governmental committee members for travel to attend Commission, WQB and committee meetings, may be paid by the Commission as per IJC polices. The Commission may approve support of exceptional travel expenses if deemed necessary to conduct the business of the WQB.


The Commission may issue a Directive to the Board for each three-year cycle or under other circumstances as needed that will:

guide the Board in the interpretation of the detailed functions,
provide specific direction on the requested timing and content of specific reports or advice, and
provide updated rules and procedures or other operating instructions, as required.