Vol. 8, Issue 2 - Water Matters quarterly newsletter - IJC - May 2020
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Water Matters IJC Quarterly

Staff and Commissioners from the IJC continue to work from home and virtually this spring as stay-at-home measures continue in Canada and the United States.

We recently completed a first-ever virtual Semi-Annual Executive Meeting, discussing updates to ongoing projects and considering new ones in the transboundary region. This issue of our quarterly newsletter includes articles on fish in the Souris River, flooding in Osoyoos Lake and the Champlain-Richelieu basin, and harmful algal blooms in the Champlain-Memphramegog watershed. 

Thanks for reading!

Can Fish Breathe? Monitoring Oxygen in the Souris River


By Kevin Bunch, IJC

Just like humans need oxygen in the air, fish and other aquatic creatures need dissolved oxygen in the water.

But the amount of dissolved oxygen changes daily due to weather conditions, water flow, the presence of algae and other factors. This can make it difficult to get an accurate idea of what underwater oxygen is available from just a single measurement.

As part of ongoing water quality work, the IJC’s Souris River Board has teamed up with the US Geological Survey (USGS) and Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) for continuous round-the-clock monitoring of dissolved oxygen at three locations in the river. Read More

Visualizing the History of Floods on Osoyoos Lake

By Kevin Bunch, IJC

Knowing how high the waters have been in the past is important when looking at waterfront development. A pair of markers denoting the highest recorded levels of Osoyoos Lake aim to make people aware of the past when planning for the future.

Osoyoos Lake straddles British Columbia and Washington state. For people who live near the water and those who haven’t, it can be easy to lose sight of how dramatically water levels can change over time. The markers provide a visual aid to help people understand record flood levels the lake has seen in past decades. Read More


Recommendations Intended to Protect Champlain-Missiquoi and Memphremagog from Harmful Algal Blooms

By Michele D’Amours, IJC

Public concerns regarding water quality and harmful algal blooms in Lake Champlain-Missisquoi Bay and Lake Memphremagog have continued to grow over the past decade. The International Joint Commission (IJC), in response to a request from Canadian and United States governments, has issued a report with recommendations on how federal, state, provincial and local governments can work together to clean up the water.

Harmful algal blooms produce toxins that can affect human health, pets, ecosystems and wildlife. They also impact recreational activities in the summer, local economies and threaten the safety of drinking water. The blooms occur due to high phosphorus levels in the lakes from sources including cities and farms. Read More

British Columbia AquaHacking Challenge tackles western boundary water issues

By James Littley, Okanagan Basin Water Board
This year, for the first time, the AquaHacking Challenge has come to western Canada, focused on the transboundary waters of the Okanagan basin.

The AquaHacking Challenge in British Columbia (BC) is co-hosted by the Okanagan Basin Water Board and Aqua Forum, a not-for-profit organization from Eastern Canada that has run the challenge in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region since 2015. AquaHacking is a contest for university students and young professionals, aimed at solving freshwater issues. Local water experts provided five pressing Okanagan water issues and invited participants to develop technology-based solutions to one of the issues. Read More

Lake Champlain-Richelieu River Studies Causes of Floods to Help Lessen Future Damages

By Kevin Bunch, IJC

In 2011, Lake Champlain and the Richelieu River suffered from a record flood. According to a new report, this was caused by warm, wet and windy spring weather that followed near-record winter snowpack, and human changes to the lake and river. The flooding damaged thousands of homes, eroded the shoreline and hurt wildlife.

The Lake Champlain-Richelieu River Study Board has released its “Causes and Impacts of Past Floods in the Lake Champlain-Richelieu River Basin” report. This report is part of the board’s work studying flooding in the region. In 2022, the board will provide final recommendations to the Canadian and US governments on ways they can mitigate future flood damages. Read More 

Experts Help Study Board Plan for Future Floods in Champlain-Richelieu Basin

By Michele D’Amours, IJC

In September 2016, the International Joint Commission (IJC) was requested by the Canadian and US governments to conduct an in-depth study to investigate the causes and impacts of flooding in the Lake Champlain-Richelieu River watershed, with emphasis on the record spring 2011 flooding, and evaluate possible flood mitigation solutions. 

The Commission established a binational study board to undertake this work and as part of its mandate, the board invites experts to participate in periodic workshops to explore creative measures that could aid in mitigating impacts of future flooding in the basin.

In February, a group of Canadian and US floodplain managers, study members and researchers who specialize in floodplain management decisions and strategies came together for a two-day workshop to discuss potential floodplain management solutions. Read More
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