Adaptive Management for an International River Basin: The Future of the Columbia River Treaty

The Columbia River Treaty between the US and Canada has been recognized as an innovative example of the bi-national management of the water resources of an international river. However, when the Treaty was ratified in 1964, it did not adequately consider the rights and responsibilities of tribes and First Nations or local residents, ecological functions such as fish and fish habitat, instream flow needs, river processes and ecology, etc. Additionally, the treaty did not address issues such as water requirements for municipal, industrial and agricultural uses, river transport and recreation, water quality, or potential changes in runoff characteristics and water temperature as a result of climate change. The United States and Canada are currently renegotiating the Columbia River Treaty and incorporating ecosystem function into the agreement, which was originally designed for hydropower generation and flood control, is a central theme. Both parties agree that an adaptive management framework will be critical to achieving these multiple objectives and treaty renegotiations are widely seen as providing an opportunity to modernize the treaty by including consideration of the above issues.

On May 9, 2019 the UC Berkeley Canadian Studies Program, Institute of International Studies, and Riverlab hosted a workshop on incorporating adaptive management (AM) into a modernized Columbia River Treaty. Scientists, policy experts, and representatives of First Nations and Tribes from Canada and the US met at UC Berkeley to present and discuss principles of adaptive management, successful precedents, and consider issues of legal perspectives, climate change, and power management relevant to revising the 55-year old treaty.

Reflecting the conclusions of the workshop was a one-page communiqué sent to US and Canadian negotiators in Washington and Ottawa. A more detailed summary of the workshop recommendations is available below:

Columbia River Treaty 2019 Workshop – Summary of Recommendations

The program for the workshop is available here, and PDF versions of the presentations from the workshop are available below: