Understanding the Basin
The size and complexity of the Mackenzie River Basin is impressive. The Mackenzie River system flows 4,241 kilometres from the Columbia Ice-field in Jasper National Park and the deep snowfields of the upper Peace River in northeastern British Columbia to its mouth on the Beaufort Sea of the Arctic Ocean. The Mackenzie River Basin covers about 1.8 million square kilometres or about 20% of the landmass of Canada. Five jurisdictions share the Basin, each with its own legal and regulatory framework.
The Mackenzie River Basin can be sub-divided into six major subbasins, each with its own major river or lake. The six sub-basins are the Athabasca, the Peace, the Liard, the Peel, the Great Slave, and the Mackenzie-Great Bear.
The Basin includes nine lakes over 1,000 square kilometres in area. The basin also includes three large deltas: the Peace- Athabasca Delta (which has been designated as a Wetland of International Significance), the Slave River Delta, and the Mackenzie Delta.
Permafrost underlies about 75% of the basin. Pingos and patterned ground features associated with continuous permafrost are found in the north, while agriculture and forestry are important economic activities in the southern parts of the basin.
Vegetation changes from boreal forest in the south to alpine in the mountains and arctic tundra in the north and east. The basin extends from the Mackenzie and Rocky Mountains in the west, through the Interior Plains to the Canadian Shield in the east.
This range of conditions, in combination with the range of climatic conditions, results in eight of the fifteen major terrestrial ecozones of Canada being represented within the basin.
There are forty-four community water systems with 1,000 or more customers in the Mackenzie River Basin. More than 700 other small water systems serve small communities and rural populations. People use water and discharge wastes for a variety of industrial activities in the Mackenzie River Basin. The most important industries are agriculture, fossil energy, forest products, hydroelectricity and mineral extraction.
There are eleven Aboriginal languages spoken within the basin. The traditional economy, which depends on healthy ecosystems, remains an important part of these people's lives and livelihoods.
The Mackenzie River Basin Transboundary Waters Master Agreement directs the MRBB to report on the State of the Aquatic Ecosystem every five years. The State of the Aquatic Ecosystem Report brings together the available information within the Mackenzie River Basin to help the Board understand and track conditions in the Basin.Top of Page
Page last modified: 23 November 2010