© 2016 FLOW Canada



keeping watch over Canadian water policy.

It is our great pleasure to share this new edition of the FLOW Monitor – our regular bulletin that summarizes key activities, explores new and emerging ideas, and provides analysis and discussion on all things water policy in Canada. Much has changed in Canada since our last edition – in particular, the election of a new federal government that has committed to a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous governments, to review and modernize key environmental laws and polices, and to make historic investments in infrastructure to build sustainable and resilient communities. All of these commitments hold significant potential for water in Canada, and importantly, point to a renewed interest in advancing cooperative federalism. 


Making the federation work for water in the 21st century will require a broader perspective on cooperative federalism that is much more inclusive of Indigenous and local governments in order to (re)build the relationships needed to meet the needs of the country while addressing unique cultural and regional interests, challenges and contexts. You can expect more on the renewal of cooperative federalism and on making the federation work for water in future editions of the FLOW monitor.


In 2012, the federal government decided to stop funding the Experimental Lakes Area. In this issue, award-winning author Chris Wood stimulates dialogue on solutions for ensuring the program’s survival. In this issue, we also outline recent advancements in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Basin, why it is important consider water and climate in a Pan-Canadian energy strategy, and principles that must be considered in the development of a national First Nations water governance regime.


This special edition of the FLOW Monitor looks back at the progress made towards national freshwater protection since the publication of our 2007 document, Changing the Flow: A Blueprint for Federal Action on Freshwater.


The articles, organized according to the seven priority areas identified in Changing the Flow, assess the level of action taken over the past five years to protect water. While the trend towards a diminishing role for the federal government is neither surprising nor new, we seek to stimulate thinking about where to go from here in this newsletter.

Sustainable water management is becoming more, not less, complex. Government leadership is as important as ever, but what this looks like seems to be evolving. In a time of shrinking governments and government capacity, it is more important than ever to evaluate our collective capacity. Diverse actors – NGOs, academics, business and industry, stewardship groups, professional associations, citizens – need to work with government, First Nations, and political leaders to redefine roles and relationships for this new era and realize a truly sustainable future.

This special edition of the FLOW Monitor looks northward to the innovative approach to water management developed in the Northwest Territories (NWT) and its potential applicability elsewhere in Canada. Articles include:

  • Raising the Bar in Canadian Water Policy: a discussion on the innovative elements of Northern Voices, Northern Waters: The Northwest Territories Water Stewardship Strategy

  • Challenges ahead: potential roadblocks to implementing the strategy

  • Transboundary Management: a comparison of transboundary water issues in the NWT, Great Lakes-St. Lawrence and Prairie provinces

  • The Mackenzie River Basin in a Changing Climate: climate change impacts that will affect water management in the NWT

  • Mackenzie River Basin Agreements: the potential role of the strategy in bilateral agreement discussions between the NWT and Alberta

  • National implications: why FLOW is interested in the strategy and our perspective on its potential value in advancing the water policy reform agenda in Canada



In this edition of the FLOW Monitor, we highlight the need for greater transparency in the public policy process, including the development of comprehensive science and monitoring programs, an increase in publicly accessible information, and a more open dialogue between governments and citizens. The feature articles in this issue illustrate situations in which improved transparency and accountability would strengthen water governance and improve fresh water protection, including:

  • Independent scientifi c research and comprehensive monitoring as a foundation for eff ective water management in Alberta’s oil sands;

  • Accountable and transparent regulatory bodies to lead Canada’s environmental assessment processes; and

  • Science-based, publicly accountable organizations, such as the International Joint Commission to oversee transboundary agreements, including the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.


The first article examines the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment’s new Canada-wide Vision for Water, and why FLOW thinks this is a positive step forward. Subsequent articles review the numerous parliamentary commitments to implement national water strategy; impacts of climate change on Canada’s water resources; process for defining environmental flows in the Athabasca River; and the Rosenberg Forum’s recommendations for the Northwest Territories’ new water strategy.


This first issue of the FLOW Monitor provides commmentary on important developments including Environment Canada's progress on key national water priorities, efforts to develop a comprehensive Federal freshwater strategy and recent developments in First Nations drinking water policies.