Bilateral Agreements

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 Aboriginal organizations in the development of the bilateral agreements in a manner consistent with its legal obligations.  The MRBB recognises the importance of Aboriginal 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 Mackenzie River Basin has been divided into four major watersheds that will be the focus of bilateral agreement negotiations.  The four major watersheds are:

  •  Peace, Athabasca, Slave Watershed - BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan & NWT
  •  Hay, Great Slave Lake Watershed - Alberta & NWT (with a little in BC)
  •  Liard Watershed - BC, Yukon & NWT (with a little in Alberta)
  •  Peel Watershed - Yukon & NWT (completed, part of Yukon - NWT Bilateral).


Dividing the Mackenzie River Basin into these major watersheds for purposes of negotiating the bilateral agreements makes the process manageable.  This process will involve direct negotiations between two parties augmented as necessary with additional multi-lateral discussions to ensure linkage of all bilateral agreements associated with a particular watershed.


The schedule for the production of the bilateral agreements for each of the four major watersheds is as follows:

  •  Peace, Athabasca, Slave Watershed, 2009 - 2012
  •  Hay, Great Slave Lake Watershed, 2012 - 2013
  •  Liard Watershed, 2013 - 2014
  •  Peel Watershed, Complete (may need to be amended)


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.


Currently, the Yukon and Northwest Territories have an existing Bilateral Agreement. Other agreements between neighbouring provinces/territories are currently being negotiated.

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Page last modified: 09 February 2011