Gouvernance transfrontalière de l’eau : nouveaux défis
What emerged from this full day discussion were some interesting observations on three broad themes: institutions for governing transboundary water issues in the Canada-US context; the state of policy and scientific knowledge related to transboundary water governance; and the need for new approaches to face the numerous challenges transboundary water issues present in the Canada-US context.
Transboundary institutions for water governance in the Canada-US context
Related to institutional capacity, the discussion centered around three broad questions: What institutional arrangements exist to address transboundary water governance issues? What are the design principles or elements of “good” transboundary water governance? Are the existing institutional arrangements able to address future challenges?
Approximately 40 percent of the 8000 km boundary between Canada and the US is water.6 The Great Lakes contain approximately 20 percent of the fresh water on the earth’s surface. Despite these facts, there are water rich and water poor jurisdictions in the transboundary context, and coastal and continental jurisdictions face different transboundary issues. In many ways, the current transboundary governance framework is dominated by continental jurisdictions. Given the vast scale and complexity of the Great Lakes – St.Lawrence basin, it is not surprising that some of the most developed transboundary institutions have evolved to manage this basin.
Historical context was highlighted as being centrally important to understanding the existing state of institutions for transboundary water governance. Based on a long-standing interest and willingness to work across borders to address transboundary issues, the shared waters, including the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence basin and other cross-border waters, have under the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty been governed cooperatively by the International Joint Commission (IJC). However, this historical consensus and cooperation among the users of the resource does not necessarily mean transboundary waters have been managed in a sustainable way. Despite the long standing consensus that the Great Lakes could be used for unlimited industrial and municipal growth, transportation uses and economic development, this consensus ultimately resulted in the degradation of the resource and awareness in the 1970s that the governance regime had to be altered.
In 1972, the mandate of the IJC was broaden under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) which was subsequently amended in 1978 and again in 1987. Through the six member commission, binational study boards and control bodies on various basins, issues and agreements,7 officials from both countries manage a wide range of issues related to water and air. The GLWQA has primarily been implemented through the focus on 43 areas of concern (AOCs) in the Great Lakes and Remedial Action Plans (RAPs), Lakewide Management Plans, and other programs and research initiatives involving federal, provincial/state, local and aboriginal governments on both sides of the border. Although progress has been made through these institutional arrangements, there is currently a review underway about the ability of these initiatives to address emerging transboundary issues.
6 “Transboundary Issues in Water Governance” Address by the Rt. Hon. Herb Gray, Canadian Chair, International Joint Commission, Hamilton, Ontario, November 4, 2005.
7 See http://www.ijc.org/en/boards for full listing.