The Columbia River Treaty: A Primer is a vital work that clearly explains the nature of this complex water agreement between Canada and the United States and how its impending update will impact communities, landscapes, industry and water supplies between the two countries for many years to come.
The Columbia River Treaty ratification in 1964 created the largest hydropower project in North America, with additional emphasis on flood protection for the USA. As the Treaty approaches its 60th anniversary, and the first opportunity for modification, its signatories are preparing proposals for new ways forward, and stakeholders on both sides of the border are speaking up. This primer explores the initial intent of the Treaty and its success to date, its costs to Columbia Basin residents and ecosystems, and new influences the signatories must now consider. Shifts in social norms related to the environment, equity and social justice, new views on the relevance of Indigenous traditional and local knowledge, and the economic and physical effects of a changing climate – are all considered as factors in future Treaty governance. The primer concludes with a summary of the perspectives that currently exist between and within each country with respect to Treaty benefits and outlines the next steps that will take place in the negotiation process.
The authors conclude with a call to action, in the hope that a renewed Columbia River Treaty might prove a model for outstanding transboundary water agreements around the world as they strive to meet not only the challenges of the present day but also the needs of future generations.
Robert William Sandford is the EPCOR Chair of the Canadian Partnership Initiative in support of United Nations "Water for Life" Decade and an associate of the Centre for Hydrology, which is part of the Global Water Institute at the University of Saskatchewan. He is also a member of Canada's Forum for Leadership on Water; serves as water governance adviser and senior policy author for Simon Fraser University's Adaptation to Climate Change Team; and has been senior water policy adviser for the Interaction Council, a global public policy forum composed of more than thirty former heads of state.
Deborah Harford is the executive director of ACT (the Adaptation to Climate Change Team) at Simon Fraser University. She is responsible for development of the initiative's pioneering vision and its unique partnerships with the public and private sectors, as well as overall coordination and management of the program. Deborah also directs and produces ACT's policy recommendations for effective adaptation strategies at all levels of government, as well as communication and promotion of the program's outcomes.
Jon O'Riordan is senior policy and research adviser to ACT, providing science-based and strategic advice. Formerly a deputy minister of sustainable resource management and an assistant deputy minister of environment with the British Columbia government, Jon is currently an adjunct professor with the School of Community and Regional Planning at the University of British Columbia, where he teaches resource planning and governance. He is also a research associate with the Polis Project on Ecological Governance at the University of Victoria.