The Mackenzie River Basin Transboundary Waters Master Agreement (Master Agreement) supports jurisdictions in managing basin water resources sustainably in a manner that maintains ecological integrity, and shares information on developments and activities.

This agreement between the governments of Canada, Northwest Territories, Yukon, British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan came into effect July 24, 1997. The agreement establishes “common principles for the cooperative management of the Aquatic Ecosystem of the Mackenzie River Basin” and an administrative body, the Mackenzie River Basin Board (MRBB), to facilitate these principles.

The Master Agreement commits the parties to the following principles in carrying out their responsibilities in the basin –

  • Manage the water resources in a manner consistent with the maintenance of the ecological integrity of the aquatic ecosystem.
  • Manage the use of the water resources in a sustainable manner for present and future generations.
  • Allow each party to the agreement to use or manage the use of water resources within its jurisdiction provided such use does not unreasonably harm the ecological integrity of the aquatic ecosystem in any other jurisdiction.
  • Provide for early and effective consultation, notification and sharing of information on developments and activities that might affect the ecological integrity of the aquatic ecosystem in any other jurisdiction.
  • Resolve issues in a cooperative and harmonious manner.

Mackenzie River Basin Board

The MRBB is comprised of 13 members, 3 representing the federal government and 10 representing the provinces and territories. Each participating province and territory has one member representing the Crown and one member representing Indigenous organizations.

The MRBB primary responsibilities are to:

  • provide a forum for communication, coordination, information exchange, notification and consultation among all 6 jurisdictions and the public
  • consider the needs and concerns of Indigenous people through the provision of culturally appropriate communication, and incorporation of their traditional knowledge and values
  • recommend uniform objectives or guidelines for the quality and quantity of the water resources.
  • encourage consistent monitoring programs
  • monitor progress of implementing the bilateral water management agreement between neighbouring jurisdictions
  • review the Master Agreement at least once every 3 years and proposing amendments to the parties
  • submit a report on the State of the Aquatic Ecosystem to the federal, provincial and territorial ministers
  • carry out studies and investigations as required

Under the Master Agreement, each jurisdiction commits to developing a Bilateral Water Management Agreement with its neighbouring jurisdiction. Alberta will develop 3 Bilateral Water Management Agreements:

  • British Columbia – Alberta, in development
  • Saskatchewan - Alberta, in development
  • Alberta – Northwest Territories, signed in 2015
    • The Alberta – Northwest Territories Mackenzie River Basin Bilateral Water Management Agreement (AB-NWT BWMA), including the Appendices, commits both governments to co-operatively manage water resources. The AB-NWT BWMA helps ensure water management takes an adaptive management approach that determines what actions should be taken and when, based on scientific monitoring and informed by traditional knowledge. It will also respect the jurisdiction of governments and ensure water is collaboratively managed for the benefit of the environment, people and the economy.


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