International water sharing: examining the Montana–Alberta dispute in the context of the century-old Boundary Waters Treaty

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

The Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 set out the terms and conditions by which citizens in Canada and the United States would be permitted to access and use trans-national surface water resources. In 2003, the Governor of Montana claimed that Montanans were not receiving their collective entitlement of the boundary waters that flowed into Alberta and requested the International Joint Commission (IJC) to investigate. After more than eight years of study, meetings, task forces and negotiations, the IJC has successfully cooled emotions but a definitive solution to the dispute has not been found. Although water users in Alberta have been receiving more water than those in Montana, it has been determined that users in both countries have been receiving less water than their legal entitlements. This result has been due more to differences in diversion, conveyance and storage infrastructure on each side of the border than to any inherent unfairness in the treaty itself.

Keywords: Alberta, Boundary Waters Treaty, Dispute, International Joint Commission, Montana, Water

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