2018-2020 Alberta – Northwest Territories Bilateral Water Management Agreement Report Released

News Releases

Yellowknife — July 12, 2022

The Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) and the Government of Alberta are pleased to report on the implementation of the Alberta-Northwest Territories Bilateral Water Management Agreement.

One of the most comprehensive of its kind, the Agreement between Alberta and the Northwest Territories (NWT) lays the foundation for long-term cooperation and shared management in which we aim to protect 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.

Today, 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.

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 2% 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.


“Clean and abundant water is essential to the physical, social, cultural and economic well-being of all residents of the Northwest Territories. 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.”

  • Shane Thompson, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources (NWT)

“The Alberta-Northwest Territories Bilateral Management Agreement sets the path for the cooperative management of our shared water resources. I’m pleased that this report shows the agreement is working as intended to protect the ecological integrity of water flowing across the Alberta-Northwest Territories border and that both parties are doing their part to ensure the sustainability of our valuable water resources for future generations.”

  • Whitney Issik, Minister of Environment and Parks (Alberta)

Quick facts

  • The Mackenzie River Basin is the largest river system in Canada.
  • The Alberta-Northwest Territories Bilateral Water Management Agreement was signed on March 18, 2015.
  • To promote a cooperative approach to water management, the Governments of Canada, Northwest Territories, Yukon, British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan signed the Mackenzie River Basin Transboundary Waters Master Agreement in 1997, committing all six governments to work together towards managing shared water resources in a sustainable manner for current and future generations.
  • Bilateral agreements provide a long‐term framework for both upstream and downstream jurisdictions to manage shared water resources in a way that maintains the ecological integrity of the aquatic ecosystem.

Related links

For media requests, please contact:

Mike Westwick

Manager, Communications and Public Affairs

Environment and Natural Resources

Government of the Northwest Territories