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.
About the authors
Robert William Sandford is the EPCOR Chair of the Canadian Partnership Initiative in support of the United Nations "Water for Life" Decade and also sits on the Advisory Committee for the prestigious Rosenberg International Forum on Water Policy. He is a director of the Western Watersheds Climate Research Collaborative, an associate of the Centre for Hydrology at the University of Saskatchewan and a fellow of the Biogeoscience Institute at the University of Calgary. As well, he sits on the advisory board of Living Lakes Canada and is co-chair of the Forum for Leadership on Water and a member of the Advisory Panel for the RBC Blue Water Project. In 2011 he was invited to be an advisor on water issues by the InterAction Council, a global public policy think tank composed of more than 20 former national leaders, including Jean Chrétien, Bill Clinton and Vicente Fox.
Robert is the author of some 20 books on the history, heritage and landscape of the Canadian Rockies, including Water, Weather and the Mountain West (RMB, 2007), The Weekender Effect: Hyperdevelopment in Mountain Towns (RMB, 2008), Restoring the Flow: Confronting the World's Water Woes (RMB, 2009), Ethical Water: Learning to Value What Matters Most (RMB, 2011), Cold Matters: The State and Fate of Canada’s Fresh Water (RMB, 2012), Saving Lake Winnipeg (RMB, 2013), Flood Forecast: Climate Risk and Resiliency in Canada (RMB, 2014), and Storm Warning: Water and Climate Security in a Changing World (RMB, 2015). He is also the co-author of The Columbia River Treaty: A Primer (RMB, 2015) and The Climate Nexus: Water, Food, Energy and Biodiversity (RMB, 2015). Robert lives in Canmore, Alberta.
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. Through her efforts, ACT has created networks between local, national and international climate change research practitioners, NGOs, industry representatives, all levels of government, First Nations groups and local communities. Deborah’s work with ACT has gained her national recognition as a resource for those seeking information on climate change adaptation and practical coping strategies. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Dr. 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. Jon gained his PhD in geography at the University of British Columbia and has over 45 years of practical experience in land and resource planning, watershed governance and broader policies for supporting sustainability. He lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.
This concise but thorough book informs the reader of the terms of the Columbia River Treaty between Canada and the US. Originally ratified in 1964, when economic growth was the main concern, the Columbia waterway brought prosperity to the regions within its vicinity. However, in the ensuing 50 years much has been learned and values have changed. Chapter 2 highlights the destruction by the dams to plants, animals, First Nations cultures, and farmland. Controlled flooding in BC destroyed homes and lands in order to ensure more favourable conditions in the US. For renegotiation of the treaty in 2024, social environmental and indigenous issues will be fairly represented. Also specific changes are identified in order to cope with the catastrophic effects of climate change.—BC Books for BC Schools