Canadian Geographic
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Cross border issues

Like wild animals and even the air we breathe, water does not recognize political boundaries marked by a line on a map. As the longest undefended border in the world, the international boundary between Canada and the U.S. has many rivers and lakes sitting on the boundary and flowing over it. In western Canada, the Columbia River, which originates high on the Columbia Icefield in the Canadian Rockies, flows for 2,000 kilometres through B.C. and seven U.S. states before entering the Pacific Ocean at the Oregon/Washington state border. In eastern Canada, the Great Lakes are shared by Canada and the U.S. as are many smaller bodies of water, including Lake of the Woods in Manitoba, Ontario and Minnesota, and Lake Champlain in Quebec, New York and Vermont. A number of hydroelectric power projects, such as those on the Niagara River, involve water diversions on both sides of the border.

In 1909, the Boundary Waters Treaty established the International Joint Commission. Realizing that the actions of one country will affect the other, the Commission was created for the purpose of finding solutions to problems that arise from the sharing of bodies of water with international boundaries running right thought them. The Commission is comprised of six members, three of which are appointed by Canada’s Governor in Council, on the advice of the Prime Minister, and the President of the U.S., with the advice and approval of the Senate. The Commissioners must follow the Treaty in making any decisions, reviewing problems or resolving disputes. They must always act impartially and not as representatives of their respective governments. To assist them with this formidable task, the Commission has more than 25 boards and task forces comprised of experts from both countries. Those boards include the International Osoyoos Lake Board of Control, the International Souris River Board and the Lake Erie Task Force.


This piece features an interactive map that allows users to learn more about shared water resources between Canada and the US. Users can zoom in on various regions to learn more about how their resources are allocated.


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Quiz :

What is the size of the area covered by tailings ponds in Canada in 2010?

130 km2
50 km2
380 km2