Report to Parliament 2015 to 2016: Canada Water Act: chapter 6

4. Inter-jurisdictional water boards

Inter-jurisdictional water boards have been established to focus on specific water issues that have implications for more than one province or territory. Domestic inter-jurisdictional boards include the Ottawa River Regulation Planning Board (ORRPB), Prairie Provinces Water Board (PPWB), Mackenzie River Basin Board (MRBB), and the Lake of the Woods Control Board (LWCB). The 2015-16 activities of each are described below. There are also many international trans-boundary and inter-jurisdictional water boards in which Canada participates, most of which are led by the International Joint Commission (IJC). IJC work is not covered under the Canada Water Act; ECCC’s progress towards work plans is reported internally under the Environment and Climate Change Canada-IJC Memorandum of Understanding.

4.1. Ottawa River Regulation Planning Board

In 1983, Canada, Quebec and Ontario concluded the Agreement Respecting Ottawa River Basin Regulation. Under its terms, a board was constituted to plan and recommend regulation criteria for the 13 principal reservoirs of the basin, taking into account flood protection, hydroelectric power production and other interests. Supported by a regulating committee and secretariat, the Ottawa River Regulation Planning Board endeavours to ensure that the integrated management of the reservoirs provides protection against flooding along the Ottawa River and its tributaries, and along its channels in the Montréal region.

The 2015 freshet in the Ottawa River was quick and very low in the south of the basin, whereas in the north it was relatively normal. The cumulative volume of the 2015 freshet was in fact one of the lowest of the last 15 years (2001- 2015), even lower than that of 2010 in the extreme south. This is due to several factors, including a very harsh winter, deeper over-winter snow cover in the north of the basin and a normal snowpack in the south, and delayed snowmelt followed by a precipitation deficit in April and May in the south, compared to normal precipitation in the north of the basin in the same period.

Given the low volume of the freshet, no problems with flooding were reported along the Ottawa River in areas that are regularly affected by high water, and the use of flood reserves was unnecessary for the management of Rivière des Mille Îles.

Total energy production on the Ottawa and Gatineau Rivers for Hydro-Québec (HQ) was 9% above average while energy production for Ontario Power Generation (OPG) was above average on the Ottawa River and below average on the Madawaska River for the given period.

The Board supported a number of public information initiatives through the Ottawa River Regulation Secretariat. The Secretariat, which is housed at ECCC, maintains a website and a recorded message on toll-free telephone services in English and French, both of which provide information about water levels and flows at various locations in the basin. In 2015 the Secretariat recorded 38,758 pageviews on its website during the freshet period (March-June), significantly lower than the previous year. The total number of unique users of the site numbered 8,050. This decrease is primarily due to the smaller volume of this year’s freshet.

4.2. Prairie Provinces Water Board

Recognizing that water use within one province may impact another province, and because federal and provincial governments have shared responsibility for water, the governments of Canada, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba signed the Master Agreement on Apportionment (MAA) in October 1969. The purpose of this agreement is to apportion water between the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and to protect surface water quality and transboundary aquifers. The MAA also provides for cooperation between governments with respect to transboundary water management, and for the establishment of the Prairie Provinces Water Board (PPWB) to administer the MAA.

The overarching deliverable for the PPWB is to report on the achievement of the terms of the MAA. The MAA provides for an equitable sharing of available waters for all eastward-flowing streams, including transboundary lakes that cross provincial boundaries. The schedules to the Agreement describe the role of the Board and stipulate the amount and quality of water that shall pass from Alberta to Saskatchewan and from Saskatchewan to Manitoba.

In support of the MAA, ECCC monitors stream flows, water quality and meteorological conditions on eastward-flowing streams on the provincial borders (see Figure 8). The PPWB computes apportionable flows based on the natural flow on a river if that river had never been affected by the activities of people. Excursions to the MAA water quality objectives are also calculated annually.

Under the MAA, ECCC is responsible for managing the expenditures of the PPWB, which are cost-shared with Canada providing ½ and each province 1/6 of the funds. The secretariat consists of 5 professionals, who are hired by ECCC and are responsible for planning, directing and managing the operations of the board and its technical committees.

Figure 8: PPWB water quantity and quality monitoring stations and basins for 2015

Figure 8: PPWB water quantity and quality monitoring stations and basins for 2015 (See long description below)
Description of Figure 8

Figure 8 is a map of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba that shows the Prairie Provinces Water Board water quantity and quality monitoring stations and basins. PPWB water quantity and/or quality monitoring is performed in the following areas: 1. Cold River; 2. Beaver River; 3. North Saskatchewan River; 4. Battle River; 5. Red Deer River A/S; 6. South Saskatchewan River; 7. Battle Creek, 8. Middle Creek; 10. Churchill River; 11. Saskatchwan Rvier; 12. Carrot River; 13. Red Deer River S/M; 14. Assiniboine River; 15. Qu'Appelle River; 16. Pipestone Creek.

Activities and accomplishments of the PPWB in 2015-2016 included the following:

  • Apportionment requirements were reviewed and determined to have been met in the calendar year of 2014 on all eastward-flowing prairie streams. Interim flows indicated that 2015 apportionment requirements were likely met on the South Saskatchewan River. It is anticipated that there will not be any problems meeting apportionment for 2015 on any transboundary stream.
  • In February 2016, the PPWB approved the hydrometric and meteorological monitoring station list for 2016-2017. Important changes to note are the addition of five new meteorological stations for a total of 25 stations along the North Saskatchewan River.
  • A project to review apportionment methods resulted in the completion of reviews of the North Saskatchewan River Basin and of Cold Basin, which were published as PPWB technical reports. The Saskatchewan River Basin and the Qu’Appelle River Basin, both at the Saskatchewan/Manitoba boundary, are undergoing reviews. The Saskatchewan River Basin review is expected to be completed in 2016-2017. The Qu’Appelle River Basin review is in its preliminary phase.
  • A proposed schedule to the MAA related to transboundary aquifers is under development. The objective of the schedule will be to establish a cooperative framework for effective and efficient management and sustainable use of groundwater and aquifer systems by the Parties of the MAA.
  • The PPWB approved the 2014 Water Quality Excursion Report. The overall adherence to Interprovincial Water Quality Objectives was very high with an average of 95% in 2014, resulting in the continued protection of water quality.
  • On June 22, 2015, Ministers Leona Aglukkaq, Steve Ashton, Thomas Nevakshonoff, Herb Cox and Shannon Phillips approved the 2015 Water Quality Objectives. The new 2015 Water Quality Objectives came into effect on July 8, 2015. There are now 71 transboundary water quality objectives, on 12 transboundary river reaches. In February 2016, the PPWB approved the 2016-17 water quality monitoring program based on these new objectives.
  • The new PPWB Committee on Flow Forecasting, formed in 2015, will investigate, oversee, review, report and improve the accuracy of flow forecasting at the interprovincial boundaries. This Committee will also provide recommendations on matters pertaining to streamflow forecasting of interprovincial basins. 
  • The PPWB also produced annual reports to ministers which are available on the website (

4.3. Mackenzie River Basin Board

The governments of Canada, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories and Yukon signed the Mackenzie River Basin Transboundary Waters Master Agreement in July 1997. The Master Agreement endorses the principle of managing water resources for future generations such that the ecological integrity of the aquatic ecosystem is maintained. It provides for early and effective consultation on potential developments and activities in the basin that could affect the integrity of the aquatic ecosystem in another jurisdiction. It also contains provisions for seven sets of bilateral agreements between adjacent jurisdictions in the basin.

The Mackenzie River Basin Board (MRBB) represents all parties to the Master Agreement and administers the provisions of the Agreement. Federal members include representatives from ECCC and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. Health Canada provides support and expertise on human health issues. The 3 provinces and 2 territories in the basin are represented by 13 members, including an appointee from each provincial and territorial government water management agencies, and an Indigenous board member nominated by Indigenous organizations within each jurisdiction.

Under the Master Agreement, ECCC is responsible for managing the expenditures of the MRBB, which are cost-shared equally by the parties. The secretariat consists of the executive director, who is hired by ECCC and is responsible for planning, directing and managing board operations.

Key activities and accomplishments of the MRBB in 2015-2016 include:

  • The governments of British Columbia and the Northwest Territories signed a bilateral water management agreement on October 15, 2015, to establish and implement a framework for cooperating to achieve the principles of the Master Agreement.
  • The MRBB tracked the progress of ongoing bilateral water management negotiations between British Columbia and Alberta; Alberta and Saskatchewan; and British Columbia and Yukon.
  • The MRBB monitored the implementation of bilateral water management agreements between Alberta and the Northwest Territories, and the newly signed agreement between British Columbia and the Northwest Territories.
  • The MRBB published the Mackenzie River Basin Board Report to Ministers 2014-2015, which is available on the MRBB website.
  • The MRBB Traditional Knowledge and Strengthening Partnerships Steering Committee partnered with the University of Alberta, other national and international academics, and the Government of the Northwest Territories to gather and communicate water-related Traditional and Local Knowledge from around the Mackenzie River Basin. The project, titled Tracking Change - Local and Traditional Knowledge in Watershed Governance will also provide the MRBB with the opportunity to learn from indigenous experiences in the Amazon and Mekong Basins.

4.4. Lake of the Woods Control Board

The Lake of the Woods Control Board (LWCB) does not fall under the Canada Water Act, but it is included in this report to provide a more complete picture of federal-provincial water management in Canada. The LWCB is a board consisting of four members, each with an alternate, who represent Canada (one member), Ontario (two members) and Manitoba (one member). Appointments are made by orders in council of the appropriate government, and each appointee must be a professional engineer.

The LWCB, established in 1919, is responsible for the regulation of levels in Lake of the Woods and Lac Seul and flows in the Winnipeg and English rivers, downstream from these lakes to their junction. In addition, when the level of Lac Seul exceeds certain specified levels, the LWCB controls the diversion of water from Lake St. Joseph (Albany system) into Lac Seul.

The LWCB’s authority is defined by concurrent Canada-Ontario-Manitoba legislation (Lake of the Woods Control Board Act; 1921, 1922, 1958) and is further mandated by a Canada-U.S. treaty (Convention and Protocol for Regulating the Level of the Lake of the Woods, 1925), since Lake of the Woods is an international boundary body of water. This treaty also created a second board, the International Lake of the Woods Control Board (ILWCB). Although Lake of the Woods is normally regulated solely by the LWCB, the outflow from the lake is subject to the approval of the ILWCB whenever the level of the lake rises above or falls below certain levels specified in the treaty.

The LWCB maintains a full-time secretariat that monitors conditions in the basin, provides information and analysis, and recommends regulating strategies or specific outflows. It also implements the LWCB’s operating strategy, conducts studies and maintains communications with basin users.

In 2015, conditions in the Winnipeg River basin allowed the LWCB to maintain Lake of the Woods at a relatively low level through the summer, following the historic high flows experienced throughout the Winnipeg River basin in 2014. Low summer levels allowed for greater access for property owners to undertake projects to repair shoreline structures and address areas vulnerable to erosion. Stable, low summer levels also helped provide one of the best wild rice crops in years.

During 2015, the lakes under the LWCB’s authority were maintained within the water level limits established under treaty and legislation.

In 2015, the LWCB held three regulation meetings with resource advisors and special interest group representatives in Kenora, Ontario. These meetings resulted in the adoption of seasonal operating strategies employed by the LWCB Secretariat in daily operations.

Due to the extreme conditions, during 2015 the LWCB continued its normal engagement activities, visiting the Lake of the Woods District Property Owners Association’s annual Cottage Show in Winnipeg in May, a south shore resort on Lake of the Woods to see the impacts of the 2014 high water, and held a public open house in Kenora in June. Other outreach activities included twenty-two media interviews, phone calls and email interaction with the wider public, and the popular web site. The LWCB published the 2015 LWCB Annual Report in early 2016.

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