The Mackenzie River Basin Transboundary Waters Master Agreement provides broad guidance for negotiating individual bilateral agreements. Provincial and territorial jurisdictions are responsible for the development of the bilateral agreements.
The objectives of bilateral agreements are:
- to effect cooperative watershed management among the jurisdictions which share the water resources of the Mackenzie River Basin,
- to sustain the ecological integrity of the aquatic ecosystems of the Mackenzie River Basin, and
- to facilitate equitable and sustainable use of shared water resources by establishing criteria and desired outcomes that address water consumption, flows, quality, ground water management and aquatic ecosystem health commitments.
The bilateral agreements will commit jurisdictions to work cooperatively to achieve these objectives.
Each MRBB jurisdiction will engage its Indigenous organizations in the development of the bilateral agreements in a manner consistent with its legal obligations. The MRBB recognises the importance of Indigenous participation and traditional knowledge in transboundary water management.
The MRBB has the responsibility to ensure consistency and coherence among the agreements and to ensure that collectively, the agreements will result in fulfillment of the terms and principles of the Master Agreement.
The Board also has responsibility to track the development of the agreements and, if in its opinion believes that progress is unduly delayed, the Board may bring this observation to the attention of all jurisdictions and hold a discussion to resolve the delay. If progress continues to be delayed, the Board may bring this matter to the attention of the Ministers.
The federal government will become involved in the negotiation of bilateral agreements under two circumstances:
- If the bilateral agreement specifically implicates the federal government to some action or specifically relates to federal jurisdiction; and/or
- If a provincial or territorial party to a bilateral agreement requests the input of the federal government.
Four Bilateral Water Management Agreements have been completed:
- British Columbia and Yukon, completed in April 2017;
- British Columbia and the Northwest Territories, completed in October 2015;
- Alberta and the Northwest Territories, completed in March 2015; and
- Yukon and the Northwest Territories, completed in 2002 (the parties intend to review this agreement soon).
Other agreements between neighbouring provinces and territories are currently being negotiated.