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Alberta, Northwest Territories release bilateral water management agreement

Aim is to protect water's ecological integrity

July 13, 2022  By Government of Northwest Territories

Yellowknife – An agreement between the governments of Alberta and the Northwest Territories lays the foundation for long-term cooperation and shared management aimed at protecting the ecological integrity of the water flowing across the Alberta-NWT border. The agreement establishes a framework for joint learning that will inform bilateral water management actions on transboundary waters, including commitments for monitoring water quantity, quality, and biological indicators.

The Bilateral Management Committee responsible for administering and reporting on the agreement released its annual report, Working Together to Manage Our Shared Waters. The report details activities undertaken from April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2020.

“Clean and abundant water is essential to the physical, social, cultural and economic well-being of all residents of the Northwest Territories,” Shane Thompson, minister of environment and natural resources (NWT), said. “This agreement represents a cooperative approach to water management between our two jurisdictions. The information provided in this joint report highlights the efforts we have made in collaboration with Alberta when it comes to managing our shared waters.”


Highlights of the report include:

  • Continued monitoring of benthic macroinvertebrates in the Slave and Hay rivers.
  • A new fish health monitoring program in the Slave River.
  • Continued surface water quality and quantity monitoring and reporting.
  • Continued groundwater studies to increase understanding of shared groundwater in Alberta and the NWT.
  • Completion of a comprehensive review of existing frameworks and best practices regarding the use of traditional knowledge in decision making.

Key takeaways include:

  • Water flows were slightly lower than average in the Slave River in 2018 and 2019.
  • Water flows were lower than average in the Hay River in 2018 and much lower than average in 2019.
  • Water use, under Alberta Water Act licences, was less than two per cent of the natural flow of the Hay River in all months in 2018 and 2019.
  • Alkalinity and dissolved magnesium showed slight increasing trends in the Slave River; similar trends were found in the Peace River, but not in the Athabasca River.
  • The presence of human-made, toxic, bioaccumulative and persistent substances in the Slave and Hay rivers were found to be very low – and below levels that could harm aquatic life.

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