MRBB History

History of Intergovernmental Cooperation

June 24 to 27, 1972

An intergovernmental seminar was held in Inuvik, Northwest Territories as a result of a growing concern among people in northern Alberta and the Northwest Territories about the down- stream effects of the increasing amount of development in upstream areas of Alberta and British Columbia. Forty delegates representing Canada, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories and Yukon met to focus attention on the water resources of the Mackenzie Basin. The seminar identified the need for a permanent intergovernmental body to exchange information and data on a regular basis. The Mackenzie River Basin Intergovernmental Liaison Committee (Liaison Committee) was formed for that purpose.

1972 to 1977

The Liaison Committee met on a regular basis and identified a number of interjurisdictional issues. The most significant issue was the lack of coordinated and integrated research knowledge on this huge river system.

May 31, 1977

The Ministers representing Canada, British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, which have water management authority in the Basin, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Respecting the Water Resources of the Mackenzie River Basin. This MOU re-established the Liaison Committee as the Mackenzie River Basin Committee (MRBC) and directed the MRBC to formulate a program of studies aimed at obtaining a Better understanding of the Basin.

April 1, 1978

The Ministers signed the Mackenzie River Basin Study Agreement. It initiated a three-year, program of studies at a shared cost of $1.6 million. A final report, the Mackenzie River Basin Study Report, was submitted to the Ministers on August 31, 1981.

February 1982

The Study Report was released to the public. It contains nine recommendations which were endorsed by the Ministers. The MRBC was asked to implement those recommendations. Appendix B presents all nine recommendations and describes how they were implemented, directly or addressed through other programs of the jurisdictions in the Basin.

Recommendation 1 called for the jurisdictions, at an early date, to “conclude an agreement through which transboundary water management issues such as minimum flows, flow regulation and water quality can be addressed at jurisdictional boundary-crossing points in the Mackenzie River Basin, and which establishes a permanent board to implement the provisions of the agreement.”

1982 to 1986

The MRBC began to implement the Study Report recommendations. The MRBC took the initial approach to Recommendation 1 of addressing seven, bilateral agreements between adjacent jurisdictions. Work was conducted on technical fact finding and defining the interests and needs of each jurisdiction. It was felt this approach had to precede development of one overall agreement, as each bilateral situation was unique in terms of water resource characteristics, how water is used and the socio-political nature of each jurisdiction.

1986 to 1988

By 1986, it became apparent that work on the bilateral agreements would benefit from the articulation of overall guiding principles for water management to ensure consistency of approach. Work began on developing the overall agreement called for in Recommendation 1.

1988 to 1991

The MRBC began preparing the draft agreement and searched for a precedent for such an agreement. A survey was undertaken of international law and agreements on shared watercourses. Common elements of those agreements were incorporated into the draft agreement.

By late 1991, a document had been prepared in a form suitable for public review.

September 30, 1991

The Ministers signed the Mackenzie River Basin General Agreement which terminated the May 31, 1977 Memorandum of Understanding and re-established the MRBC with full member status accorded to the Northwest Territories and Yukon. The MRBC was directed to share information on proposed developments, undertake studies and investigations assigned by Ministers and make recommendations on water and related resources in the Basin.

1991 to 1993

The MRBC sponsored the first in a series of five, public consultation sessions in Yellowknife on December 8 to 10, 1991. Representatives of environmental group, Indigenous organizations, industry and local governments attended this workshop. It was followed by four special workshops for Indigenous organizations in Edmonton in June 1992, Whitehorse in August 1992, Fort Smith in February 1993, and Yellowknife again in March 1993.

1993 to 1994

The MRBC revised the draft agreement and prepared a final, legal text. Assistance was obtained from the Canadian Institute of Resources Law and lawyers from each jurisdiction.

Many recommendations arising from the public and Indigenous consultation workshops were incorporated into the document.

1994 to July 1997

The final draft agreement was forwarded for Ministerial approval and signing by the respective Parties. The Ministers completed signing “The Mackenzie River Basin Transboundary Waters Master Agreement” on July 24, 1997 whereupon it came into effect.