Water Management and Monitoring

Transboundary Water Agreement Implementation

The Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) is working in collaboration with neighbouring jurisdictions to make sure the commitments of the completed transboundary water management agreements are met.

This page describes key implementation activities to meet the commitments of the bilateral agreements with Alberta, B.C. and Yukon. Some activities benefit implementation of more than one agreement (multi-jurisdictional); some activities are specific to one agreement. 


There is limited knowledge about the quality, quantity and location of groundwater near NWT borders in the Mackenzie River Basin. To understand gaps in knowledge, a report was completed to describe what is known about groundwater resources, uses and monitoring, along with potential impacts to groundwater.

The report will support development of Groundwater Learning Plans. Development of these plans is a commitment in NWT transboundary water management agreements with Alberta and British Columbia, for areas where there are moderate levels of existing or proposed development and/or areas considered vulnerable.

Hay River Basin State of Aquatic Knowledge Report

The State of Aquatic Knowledge for the Hay River Basin report summarizes information about the basin setting, aquatic environment (groundwater, surface water flows, water quality, and organisms that depend on the river), trends over time, and current and future human activities that could affect basin and river health. The data gathered reflects the level of information accessed through literature searches and  government databases of current human activities. To support long-term management of the Hay River Basin, knowledge and data gaps are identified and recommendations are made for future monitoring programs, strategies, objectives and additional database or file searches.

Liard and Petitot River Basins State of Knowledge Report

The Liard and Petitot River Basins State of Knowledge Report provides a summary of the state of knowledge of the Liard and Petitot Rivers surface water and groundwater basins, including traditional and scientific knowledge, and identifies the existing body of knowledge, current monitoring programs, and knowledge gaps. The report includes valuable information to guide the development of learning plans as required under the British Columbia-Northwest Territories Bilateral Water Management Agreement.


The commitments in the Alberta-NWT Agreement are intended to be proactive and protect the ecosystem and its biological components, including fish, wildlife, invertebrates, plants and people, and how they relate to one another. Particular commitments related to biology include establishing and monitoring biological indicators. Specific work towards fulfilling those commitments have been initiated as part of implementation.

An annotated bibliography of relevant biological monitoring on the Slave and Hay rivers and previous biological indicator work undertaken in the Mackenzie River Basin was completed. A large number of documents, research articles, and databases were reviewed for their relevancy to biological monitoring, or the development of biological indicators in the Slave and Hay river basins. The literature review focused on the interim biological indicators listed in the agreement (i.e. fish, aquatic mammals, invertebrates) and also included other indicators such as amphibians, ecosystem, algae, vegetation and birds. 

In January 2018, a workshop intended to identify the most suitable biological indicators for the implementation of the AB-NWT agreement took place. The workshop included experts from provincial, territorial and federal governments, academia, and Indigenous governments. The workshop’s main points of discussion and the key considerations and recommendations have been summarized in a workshop report.

Traditional and Local knowledge

The implementation of bilateral water management agreements is intended to meaningfully include traditional and local knowledge. To help meet this commitment,  A Review of Traditional Knowledge Frameworks for Bilateral Water Agreement Decision Making was completed in March, 2020.

This report will inform the development of a framework for meaningful inclusion of traditional knowledge in these agreements’ decision making. The report reviews existing traditional knowledge frameworks, best practices, protocols and guidelines.