Mackenzie River Basin Bilateral Water Management Agreements

Supporting transboundary negotiations

The Project

The Mackenzie River Basin Transboundary Waters Master Agreement commits provincial and territorial governments to cooperatively manage the shared waters of the Mackenzie River Basin. It makes provision for bilateral agreements to establish specific terms and mechanisms for water allocation, consumption, water quality, and aquatic ecosystem health, for both surface and groundwater. Compass was engaged to design and facilitate the negotiation process for five bilateral water management agreements, involving the governments of BC, Alberta, Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan, and Yukon, collectively encompassing the Peace-Athabasca-Slave and Liard basins. 

Our Role

We designed the process based on principles of structured decision making, interest-based negotiations and adaptive management. A key challenge was facilitating agreement on multiple independent bilateral agreements, while maintaining an appropriate level of consistency to ensure a coordinated basin-level approach. Each agreement includes provisions for defining objectives at the border and establishing a set of precautionary triggers to initiate or enhance management and monitoring. An innovative risk-informed management approach provides consistency and transparency, while ensuring management tailored to local needs. Our role included process design, project management, facilitation, conflict resolution, option development and assessment, technical coordination, and decision support tools to enable informed negotiations and consensus building. A plain language summary of the Alberta-NWT agreement, prepared by the Gordon Foundation and FLOW, is here. This agreement is recognized as an important model for modern transboundary water management.