NWT Premier Bob McLeod says a new agreement with Alberta does everything possible to protect the waters of the Mackenzie River basin.
McLeod and NWT environment minister Michael Miltenberger met with Alberta Premier Jim Prentice to sign the bilateral water management deal in Edmonton Wednesday.
Within it, both governments commit to co-operatively managing water resources and protecting the integrity of aquatic ecosystems in the Mackenzie River basin, the longest and largest river system in Canada.
“This is a priority for the people and government of the NWT,” said McLeod.
“I grew up in Fort Providence on the Mackenzie River. I have seen first-hand the changes that resulted from development in the south.
“As a resident of the NWT, as a father and grandfather, I have a stake in ensuring the long-term health of our waters and our environment.”
The NWT is the final downstream jurisdiction in the basin which means water resources can be impacted by decisions upstream.
McLeod says development farther south is necessary for creating jobs and stimulating the economy, but only if it’s done responsibly.
“Approximately 80% of the NWT’s water flows through Alberta. Like all northerners, I am concerned about the effects of upstream development, and have an interest in protecting our land and water.”
Miltenberger says the agreement, which took more than a decade to finalize, is unparalleled given how extensive and collaborative it is.
“We have had experts tell us there is no other water agreement in our country, and possibly the world, that is as comprehensive, as collaborative, as respectful of ecological integrity, founded on as much consultation, and as adaptable and responsive to risk and change, as this agreement,” he said.
“When I say I’m happy to be here today, it has a very special, real meaning to me. This was a major goal for the NWT and it’s critically important to the people of the NWT.
“Normally, water issues of this nature are litigated or fought over.”
Prentice added: “It’s an agreement of our commitment to work together to ensure that people on both sides of the border have access to a healthy and sustainable water supply. The agreement will provide direction to both jurisdictions on how we are going to cooperate, and in particular it will guide the management decisions that we will make in terms of the Mackenzie River basin.”
The Mackenzie River basin is the 10th largest river basin in the world, with three major deltas.